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Greek PM Tsipras calls for early elections after EU vote drubbing

Michalis Karagiannis / Eurokinissi / AFP | Greek opposition New Democracy party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis casts his ballot for the European parliamentary elections, in Athens on May 26, 2019.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for early parliamentary elections Sunday after voters turned away from his Syriza party in EU and local elections, giving the opposition conservative New Democracy party a solid lead.

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Forced into calling early elections next month after a poor showing in EU and local elections on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be making a last stand against the odds to stay in power.

Tsipras has to drag his leftist Syriza party out of a ditch after a drubbing of over nine percentage points in the European polls, and a near-sweep in regional elections by the main opposition New Democracy conservatives.

"Following the second round of local elections (on June 2), I will ask the president to immediately call national elections," a visibly disappointed Tsipras said in a televised address. "I will not run away or quit the struggle for equality, solidarity, social justice."

With over a third of polling stations accounted for, Tsipras' leftist Syriza party scored less than 24 percent in the European vote compared with more than 33 percent for conservative New Democracy party. Turnout was over 57 percent.

In local elections, early results showed New Democracy in control, or securing outright, the bulk of Greece's 13 regions.

'Loss of confidence'

"Greece has sent a strong message... the people have withdrawn their confidence," said New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

New Democracy candidates are also in the lead in the mayoral races in Athens and Thessaloniki, which will need a second round to declare a winner.

In the European polls, the socialist Kinal party came third at over 7.0 percent, followed by the Communist KKE party at 5.7 percent, according to the voter survey.

Neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, whose leadership is on trial for crimes including the murder of an anti-fascist rapper, tallied its lowest score in years at under 5.0 percent and fell from third place to fifth.

Allies insisted that Tsipras had shown remarkable resilience for a leader who had to abandon anti-austerity promises and bow to the reform demands of Greece's creditors to avert a disastrous euro exit.

Tsipras had also resigned in August 2015, less than a year after coming to power, as he was forced to accept an unpopular bailout -- Greece's third -- prompting hardliners in his party to jump ship.

Under Tsipras, Greece had consistently posted better-than-expected fiscal results, reducing unemployment and returning to modest growth.

The PM had only recently announced sweeping tax cuts on food and dining as well as energy and hotel accommodation, and unveiled an extra monthly stipend for the country's poorest pensioners. But it was not enough to turn the tide.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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