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Syriza Leader Says Greece 'Leaving Behind Disastrous Austerity'

The head of the Syriza party, Alexis Tsipras, speaks to supporters in Athens after Greek parliamentary elections on January 25.

The leader of Greece's Syriza party says the country is "leaving behind disastrous austerity" after his far-left group won an overwhelming victory in an election that showed millions of voters are unhappy with strict measures tied to a bailout deal for the EU and eurozone member.

Alexis Tsipras spoke to Syriza supporters as a near-final preliminary count of votes cast on January 25 showed the party taking some 36 percent of the vote, far ahead of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' conservatives, who had around 28 percent.

With just over 90 percent of the votes counted, Syriza appeared to have won 149 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament, just two short of a majority, and will need to find a coalition partner among one of the smaller parties to form a government.

Tsipras is to meet on January 26 with the head of the small Independent Greeks party, which also opposes the international bailout deal that saved the country from bankruptcy in 2010.

Tsipras wants to renegotiate Greece's 318-billion-euro ($357 billion) debt and has pledged to put an end to highly unpopular austerity measures linked to the bailout.

He promised an end to "five years of humiliation and pain," which he said Greece has endured since the deal.

Tsipras also said, "The verdict of our people means the troika is finished," referring to Greece's international lenders -- the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.

However, he softened earlier rhetoric in which he had threatened to "tear up" financial agreements with the so-called troika, saying Greece would work with international creditors for a "viable" deal on debt repayment.

Tsipras wants to renegotiate Greece's 318-billion-euro ($357 billion) debt and has pledged to put an end to highly unpopular austerity measures linked to an international bailout deal.

Unemployment in Greece is around 25 percent and the economy has shrunk by a quarter since the start of the eurozone crisis in 2008.

Outgoing Prime Minister Antonis Samaras conceded his New Democracy party's defeat not long after the first preliminary results came out.

Samaras telephoned Tsipras to congratulate the Syriza leader on the victory in elections.

But Samaras told reporters, "I hand over a country that is part of the EU and the euro. For the good of this country, I hope the next government will maintain what has been achieved."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Syriza's victory in the Greek elections would create "economic uncertainty across Europe."

In a statement late January 25, French President Francois Hollande expressed his "desire to pursue the close cooperation between our two countries in service of growth and the stability of the eurozone…"

Eurozone finance ministers were due to meet on January 26 with the results of the Greek election set to be one of the main topics of discussion.

Germany, in particular, is concerned that Syriza's victory and stated intentions to renegotiate the terms of Greece's bailout deal will encourage other EU countries that received similar bailouts to demand a renegotiation of their agreements also.

News of Syriza's victory sent the euro to a new low briefly when Asian markets started the trading day on January 26.

The euro fell to $1.1088 before climbing back over $1.11.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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