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Greek poll victory for far-Left Syriza raises fears of clashes over Euro debts

By Staff Reporter

Greece set itself on a collision course with the rest of Europe last night after handing a stunning general election victory to a far-Left party that has pledged to reject austerity and cancel the country's billions of pounds in debt.

The success of the Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, in winning 36.5% of the vote may just be enough to give it an absolute majority in the 300-seat parliament, according to exit polls.

As fears of a fresh eurozone crisis grow, EU finance ministers will warn Mr Tsipras today that there will no negotiations on further debt relief unless his government promises to honour existing austerity agreements. The country has debts of €318bn.

However, the hardline approach will be sugared with offers of flexibility on the detail of austerity measures.

Economic observers will be watching closely to see if this could have an impact on other countries where unpopular austerity measures have been imposed, including Ireland.

A triumphant Mr Tsipras told Greeks his election win meant an end to austerity and humiliation and that the country's regular and often fraught debt inspections were a thing of the past.

Mr Tsipras campaigned on promises of renegotiating the terms for Greece's €240bn (£179bn) bailout, which has kept the debt-ridden country afloat since mid-2010.

To qualify for the cash, Greece had to impose deep and bitterly-resented public spending, salary and pension cuts, and repeated tax hikes.

But Mr Tsipras has vowed to reverse many of the austerity measures imposed since 2010, including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatisations and public sector job losses. This will provoke a clash with the "troika" of international institutions, the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, that have bankrolled the country.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's conservatives, who had around 28% of the vote, conceded defeat, saying he is delivering a country that has put the worst of its financial crisis behind it.

The euro fell in early trading in markets in Australasia as traders reacted to exit polls showing a convincing lead for Syriza.

Labour's former Europe minister Peter Hain compared the measures imposed on the Greeks to the restrictions placed upon Germany after the First World War.

Speaking on BBC1's Andrew Marr Show before the result was known, he said he hoped for a Syriza victory.

"I think this will be a big kick to the orthodoxy, the austerity gripping the European Union and, indeed, most of the world including Britain," he said.

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