Radical leftists win as Greece rejects austerity

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from The Washington Post,

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left-wing Syriza party

After five years of extreme austerity prescribed to treat an epidemic of debt, a battered but defiant Greece on Sunday emphatically rejected the medicine.

With millions of voters turning out — from graffiti-scarred lanes in the Parthenon’s shadow to islands lapped by aqua-green waves — the country delivered a historic win to Syriza, a radical leftist party that could put Greece on a collision course with the rest of Europe. The expected showdown has already rattled Greek financial markets and may challenge the core principle behind Europe’s currency union.

As thousands of party supporters cheered in the streets of Athens on Sunday night, nearly complete returns showed that Syriza had defeated its rivals by an unexpectedly wide margin. Though the total appeared just below the level of support needed to form a government without a coalition partner, Syriza’s charismatic young leader trumpeted the results as a new beginning for his beleaguered nation.

“The verdict of the Greek people ends, beyond any doubt, the vicious circle of austerity in our country,” Alexis Tsipras, 40, told a crowd of ebullient Greeks in a victory speech just before midnight at the marble-columned Athens Academy. “The verdict of the Greek people, your verdict, annuls today in an indisputable fashion the bailout agreements of austerity and disaster.”

Tsipras, who is likely to become prime minister within days, had campaigned on an upbeat if improbable platform of reviving the country’s beaten-down economy by turning on the taps of government stimulus. He vowed to hire back laid-off workers, raise the minimum wage, expand access to health insurance and provide electricity to those who can no longer afford it.

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