A triumphant Alexis Tsipras told Greeks that his radical left Syriza party's election victory Sunday meant an end to austerity and humiliation and that the country's regular and often fraught debt inspections were a thing of the past.
"Today the Greek people have made history. Hope has made history," Tsipras said in his victory speech at a conference hall in central Athens.
Official results with 60% of polling stations counted in Sunday's early general election showed Syriza with 36%, far ahead of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' conservatives, who had 28%. Samaras publicly conceded defeat.
But it was still unclear whether Syriza would have the minimum 151 of the parliament's 300 seats needed to form a government without support from other parties. Greek election officials said that probably would become clear only once all votes are counted — something expected by early Monday at the earliest.
Without the required 151 seats, Syriza will have to try forming a coalition government with at least one other party. The first three parties each have three days to try to form a coalition government to avoid a second election being called within a month.
"The sovereign Greek people today have given a clear, strong, indisputable mandate. Greece has turned a page. Greece is leaving behind the destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain," Tsipras said to a crowd of rapturous flag-waving party supporters.
The 40-year-old Tsipras campaigned on promises of renegotiating the terms for Greece's $270-billion bailout, which has kept the debt-ridden country afloat since mid-2010. To qualify for the cash, Greece had to impose repeated tax hikes as well as deep and bitterly resented cuts to public spending, salaries and pensions.
Its progress in reforms is reviewed by debt inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank, collectively known as the "troika," before each installment of bailout money can be disbursed.
"The verdict of the Greek people ends, beyond any doubt, the vicious circle of austerity in our country," Tsipras said. "The verdict of the Greek people, your verdict, annuls today in an indisputable fashion the bailout agreements of austerity and disaster. The verdict of the Greek people renders the troika a thing of the past for our common European framework."
The anti-bailout rhetoric has renewed doubts over Greece's ability to emerge from its financial crisis that has seen a quarter of its economy wiped out, sent unemployment soaring and undermined the euro, the currency shared by 19 European countries.