ATHENS -- Initial exit polls in an election that could decide Greece’s future in the Eurozone show the race as too close to call, with the conservative New Democracy party running neck and neck with the far-left political group Syriza.
There were reports of a last-minute surge in voting before polls closed at 7 p.m. Greek time. New Democracy, mindful of the young voters who tend to vote late and who find Syriza appealing, fired off millions of text messages urging supporters to cast their ballots.
The first exit polls showed New Democracy winning between 27.5% and 30.5% of the vote, ahead of Syriza by a mere 0.5%, well within the statistical margin of error. The socialist PASOK party registered support of about 10% to 12%, a humiliating comedown for a once-dominant force on the Greek political scene.
Much of the world is watching Greece with trepidation, worried that the election result could herald the end to the country’s membership in the Eurozone and possibly the demise of the euro currency itself.
Many in Europe fear a win by Syriza, whose fiery young leader, Alexis Tsipras, has vowed to reverse austerity cuts and rip up Greece’s multibillion-dollar bailout deals with its European and international creditors. European officials, led by Germany, have warned that such a move by Athens would result in a cutoff of rescue loans and expulsion from the 17-nation Eurozone.
New Democracy has pledged to press for an easing of some of the bailout terms but without repudiating the rescue agreements altogether.
If the exit polls hold, neither New Democracy nor Syriza will have enough seats in Greece’s 300-member parliament to form a government on its own. That would touch off negotiations that could take days and deepen the instability already gripping the country and causing fear in the financial markets.
-- Anthee Carassava
Photo: A man casts his vote Sunday in the general election at a polling station in Athens. Credit: Oli Scarff / Getty Images