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Left-wing Syriza set to win Greek vote despite Tspiras' bailout, resignation

Former Prime Minster Alexis Tsipras triggered Greece's third election this year, by resigning barely seven months into his four-year term.  Exit polls suggest his party will win again.

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Thousands of supporters attended the final campagin rally for former Greek prime minister and leader of leftist Syriza party Alexis Tsipras prior to Sunday's general elections on Athens' Syntagma square.

ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS/Reuters

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An exit poll in Greece's early election Sunday showed the left-wing Syriza party of former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras likely winning, but falling short of an absolute majority needed to form a government.

The early indication exit poll showed a close contest, with an outside chance that rival conservative New Democracy could be capable of an upset. Syriza was projected to win between 30 and 34 percent, and New Democracy between 28.5 and 32.5 percent.

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The poll indicated eight parties would be elected to parliament, with a ninth — the anti-bailout Popular Unity party formed by rebel Syriza members — struggling to make it past the 3 percent threshold.

It is the third time this year Greeks have voted, after January elections that brought Tsipras to power on an anti-bailout platform, and a June referendum he called urging voters to reject creditor reform proposals.

Tsipras, 41, triggered the election by resigning barely seven months into his four-year term, after facing a rebellion within Syriza over his policy U-turn in accepting the spending cuts and tax hikes stipulated by the bailout. Tsipras had won the January elections on pledges of abolishing such measures, tied to Greece's first two bailouts.

Syriza member and former energy minister Panos Skourletis applauded the indicated result.

"It is the first time a party brings in a tough bailout deal and is rewarded," he said on private Alpha television. "Until now, the electorate was clearly anti-bailout."

Former Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said stability lay ahead for Greece.

"I think we will be the (first) party," he said on Star television. "I can't say that it will be a government for four years, but I can say that it is very unlikely that there will be elections in the next 12 months."

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Tsipras argued he had no choice but to accept the demands of European creditors for more tax hikes and spending cuts in return for Greece's third rescue, a three-year package worth 86 billion euros ($97 billion). He had vowed to repeal the measures imposed in return for the country's first two bailouts — and despite winning the hastily called July 5 referendum.

But without the third bailout, Greece — which has relied on international rescue loans since 2010 — faced bankruptcy and a potentially disastrous exit from Europe's joint currency.

Tsipras had called on Greeks to give the next government a strong mandate that will allow it to govern for a full four-year term and to "continue with the same decisiveness, the same self-denial to fight the battles for the defense of our people's rights, not only in Europe but this time within the country too."

"I am optimistic," Tsipras said after voting in his Athens neighborhood of Kypseli. "Tomorrow a new day starts."