Historic Vote on Greek Austerity

Historic Vote on Greek AusterityHistoric Vote on Greek Austerity

Greeks headed to the polls on Sunday for the third time in less than three years in a fraught and historic national election that could determine the country’s future in the eurozone and reverberate across Europe.

The election is expected to usher in the first anti-austerity government in Europe, reflecting years of economic hardship, raising questions about Greece’s place in the continent’s currency union and leaving financial markets on edge.

The Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras has remained firmly ahead of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy party in opinion polls throughout the election campaign, which was called two years ahead of schedule.

But those polls also have shown that a significant portion of voters remained undecided until the last minute, and suggest that Syriza might struggle to win enough parliamentary seats to form a government on its own, AP reported.

The outcome could have lasting repercussions for both Greece and the eurozone. Syriza has promised to renegotiate the country's $270 billion international bailout deal. It has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that international creditors demanded in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.

Greece's creditors insist the country must abide by previous commitments to continue receiving support, and investors and markets alike have been spooked by the anti-bailout rhetoric. Greece could face bankruptcy if a solution is not found, although speculation of a "Grexit" — Greece leaving the euro — and a potential collapse of the currency has been far less fraught than during the last general election in 2012.

Samaras' campaign focused on the improving economy, which grew for the first time in six years in the third quarter of 2014. He has promised to reduce taxes if re-elected and has warned of the potentially dire consequences of reneging on bailout conditions.

The favorite to take third is To Potami, a middle-of-the-road party launched by a prominent television journalist in March. It is running neck-and-neck for third place with the ultranationalist Golden Dawn in the polls, at between 5% and 7%.