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Greece set to elect a conservative government: exit poll

Greece set to elect a conservative government: exit poll
Conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to be named the winner of Greek general election, according to exit polls.
The news follows Greece’s first parliamentary election since their country emerged from three successive international bailouts, as it continues to struggle with a crippling nearly decade-long financial crisis.
Opinion polls earlier suggested Greeks were set to defy the recent European trend of increasing support for populist parties, with conservative opposition party leader Mr Mitsotakis a clear favorite to win.
Conservative opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is set to be named the winner of Greek general election, according to exit polls. (AP)
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the vote three months earlier than originally planned after his left-wing Syriza party suffered a stinging defeat in European and local elections in May and early June. (AP)
All politicians called for voters to turn up and not abstain. There were no initial estimates of the turnout, but there were fears that there could be a high number of abstentions, especially as many Greeks have already begun their summer holidays and there are no provisions for postal ballots.
The last time an election was held deep in the summer was 1928.
In the election for the European Parliament on May 26, turnout among the 10 million registered voters was 58.7 percent.
Opinion polls earlier suggested Greeks were set to defy the recent European trend of increasing support for populist parties, with conservative opposition party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis a clear favorite to win. (EPA)
Why the election was called early
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called the vote three months earlier than originally planned after his left-wing Syriza party suffered a stinging defeat in European and local elections in May and early June.
Mr Tsipras, 44, hoped to overturn a sizeable gap in opinion polls running up to today’s vote.
He has increasingly appealed to the middle class, which has been struggling under a heavy tax burden, much of it imposed by his government.
"It's a crucial battle, we fight it with optimism, we fight it with determination until the last minute," Mr Tsipras said after casting his ballot in central Athens in the morning.
"So that the sacrifices and efforts of our nation do not go to waste, so the course of our country forward is not interrupted."
There were no initial estimates of the turnout, but there were fears that there could be a high number of abstentions, especially as many Greeks have already begun their summer holidays and there are no provisions for postal ballots. (EPA)
Mr Tsipras appealed to young people to vote and "not leave the crucial decision for their lives and their future to others".
The voting age has been extended to 16 for the first time in national elections, provided the voter turns 17 within 2019.
How Greece has weathered ten years of crisis
Sunday's vote comes as Greece gradually emerges from a brutal financial crisis that saw unemployment and poverty levels skyrocket, and the country's economy slashed by a quarter.
Greece was dependent for survival until last summer on international bailouts, and had to impose deep reforms, including massive spending cuts and tax hikes, to qualify for the rescue loans.
Mr Tsipras led his small Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, party to power in 2015 on promises to repeal the austerity measures of Greece's first two bailouts.
The last time an election was held deep in the summer was 1928. (EPA)
Where Mr Tsipras may have stumbled
But after months of tumultuous negotiations with international creditors that saw Greece nearly crash out of the European Union's joint currency, he was forced to change tack, signing up to a third bailout and imposing the accompanying spending cuts and tax hikes.
He also cemented a deal with neighboring North Macedonia under which that country changed its name from plain "Macedonia".
Although praised by Western allies, the deal angered many Greeks, who consider use of the term harbors expansionist aims on the Greek province of the same name.
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