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Tsipras in pole position hours ahead of Greek vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

Athens: Greece’s election hung on a knife-edge today as radical former premier Alexis Tsipras retook a slight lead in the final hours of a tight race against the conservatives for the helm of government.

Hours before a midnight ban on voter surveys expired yesterday, a brace of polls forecast victory for Tsipras over conservative party chief Vangelis Meimarakis by margins ranging from 0.7 to 3.0 percentage points.

However, pollsters advise caution with many recalling the 2000 election that was decided by a mere 72,000 votes.

A victory for Syriza would deliver “a key message for Europe”, Tsipras told his closing rally in Athens yesterday, referring to the refugee crisis and EU economic woes.

“Do we want a Europe of austerity or one of solidarity and democracy?” he said.

Wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, Tsipras said voters would say “no to this old system of corruption, no to the enshrining of the oligarch establishment.”

At Tsipras’s side were some of Europe’s new radical leaders, including Pablo Iglesias, who heads Spain’s Podemos party.

With nine parties trying to enter parliament, whoever wins is unlikely to secure an outright majority and Tsipras’s Syriza party could well need to ally itself with one of the parties he has criticised.

His former finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos today warned that cooperating with parties “who have built their political power on clientilism” would be difficult.

“I don’t see how we can change public life and combat tax evasion with such alliances,” Tsakalotos told the liberal Kathimerini daily.

Conservative leader Meimarakis hit back in an interview today, dismissing Tsipras’s seven months in government as “an experiment that cost (the country) dearly.”

Tsipras won office in January on an anti-austerity ticket but then upset supporters in July with a U-turn cash-for-reforms deal struck with Greece’s international creditors, despite a huge “no” vote in a referendum on the issue.

The left-wing government had earlier shut banks to avert a deposit run and imposed capital controls that are still felt in the economy.

Meimarakis warned voters against re-electing a man who has publicly admitted to opposing the bailout he signed.

“Do you know of any other prime minister who brokered a deal, brought it to parliament, voted for it and signed it, whilst saying he does not believe in it?” the conservative chief told To Vima weekly.

“I fear that if Syriza is elected… the country will soon be led to elections again, and this would be disastrous,” said Meimarakis, a 61-year-old former defence minister.

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