Greek election result: what you need to know

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Monday 26 January 2015 10:30
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With nearly all the votes counted from Sunday's poll, the radical-left party Syriza has been declared the winner of the general election in Greece.

The party looks to have won 149 seats - just two short of an absolute majority - with the ruling New Democracy party a distant second.

What's the significance?

Greece has been hit hard by the downturn with the economy shrinking by a quarter and unemployment at around 25 per cent.

Syriza, which stands for the Coalition of the Radical Left, is seen by many as the first anti-austerity party to come to power in Europe since the economic recession that hit in 2008.

Alexis Tsipras, the party's leader, promises radical reforms and says he wants to re-negotiate the country's €240bn debt.

How have the markets reacted?

Although Tsipras has only said he wants to re-negotiate Greece's bailout deal with the country's lenders - the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank - fears of a Greek exit from the eurozone have risen.

As a result of that uncertainty the price of the Euro fell to $1.1088 last night - its lowest price against the dollar in 11 years.

However, as the Independent's Patrick Cockburn explains, Syriza's degree of radical change will be limited by the country's lack of money and electorate's reluctance to leave the euro - with 75 per cent wanting to stay.

What happens next?

Syriza may seek to form a government on its own or look for allies such as Pasok and the Potami party.

Once that has happened, Cockburn notes there could be a "prolonged economic siege as Syriza seeks to negotiate new terms for a bailout while the EU waits for a lack of money to force Greece to comply with existing agreements."

Professor Aristides Hatzis of the University of Athens said: “It is like a game of chicken with Greece and the EU driving towards each other and each hoping the other will swerve first to avoid a collision".

He pointed out the disparity in power between the two drivers, adding: “The EU leaders are driving a German Mercedes and the Greeks are in a beat up old jalopy.”

What has been said?

Tsipras's first tweet after winning was to British actor Hugh Laurie - most recently famous for his portrayal of a doctor in US drama House.

In an address to the nation, Tsipras said: "Today was a defeat to the Greece of the elites and oligarchs. The Greece that works and hopes won."

While the win has been celebrated by Europe's left, those from the right-of-centre are sceptical of what the future holds.

Prime minister David Cameron warned that the result will “increase economic uncertainty across Europe”.

Swedish economist Fredrik Erixon, writing in the Spectator, warned that the election result meant there was “guaranteed turbulence ahead, both in Greek and eurozone politics”.

Will other countries follow suit?

Matching Syriza's rise in Greece is that of Podemos in Spain. With a similar economic downturn since 2008, high unemployment and crippling debts, many suspect the country could follow suit and elect the popular left-wing Podemos with widespread regional elections this year - which boasted 28 per cent in a recent opinion poll.

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the left-wing populist party - which translates to "We can" in English - was present at Tsipras' final rally in Athens on Friday. Speaking in Greek, he told the crowd: "The wind of democracy that is blowing in Greece is called Syriza, in Spain it’s called Podemos. Hope is coming.”

With similar economic conditions in countries like Portugal and Italy, Europe's conservatives will be watching the fortunes of Greece and Syriza closely over the next few months.

Who is Alexis Tsipras and what does he believe?

From an Andy McSmith profile of the man:

He took over leadership of the Syriza party in 2008 at the age of 34. The party is an amalgam of left wing groups, ranging from Maoists to Greens, who came together in 2004. Given the fractiousness of the far left and its love of internecine feuds, it is a tribute to Tsipras’s leadership that he has held the party together and made it currently the single most powerful force in Greek politics.

His opposition to EU imposed austerity arises from a lifelong belief that the capitalist system is intrinsically rotten and ripe for replacement.

More: What you need to know in the build-up to the Greek election

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