- Title: GREECE-VOTE/TSIPRAS Greek opposition leader defiant after election announcement
- Date: 29th December 2014
- Summary: PARTY SUPPORTERS CHEERING AND CLAPPING
- Embargoed: 13th January 2015 12:00
- Location: Greece
- Country: Greece
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA881YLPN6YCYALGULGQ7TIBBPN
- Story Text: Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras on Monday (December 29) said it is time for the people to take the future of the country into their hands, and out of the hands of foreign interests, as Greece heads for a snap parliamentary elections.
"Let it be clear to everyone both inside and outside the country: only the Greek people can decide, and only them. Greeks hold the key to the country," Tsipras told a crowd of hundreds of supporters.
It is his first speech after Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras announced earlier snap elections for January 25, after parliament failed to choose a new president. The constitution dictates if a president cannot be elected the country must go to polls.
Syriza is leading in opinion polls on anti- austerity policies, implemented by the current government to clean up the troubled economy.
He said it was time to put an end to catastrophic policies imposed by the servants of the government.
"Today my friends is the beginning of the end of the regime that sunk the country into poverty, unemployment, grief and desperation. The beginning of the end of those who were shamelessly servants of catastrophic policies."
He promised to protect bank deposits in the country if he came to power in next month's election, in a bid to allay fears that his government would put the wealth of Greeks at risk.
The general election throws the country into a new period of political turmoil just as it emerges from an economic crisis.
Syriza wants to wipe out a big part of the national debt, and cancel the austerity terms of a 240-billion euro ($290 billion) bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund that Greece still needs to pay its bills.
While most Greeks do not appear to want elections, the terms of the bailout agreed by the Samaras government have imposed harsh sacrifices on many people and the signs of improvement in their battered economy have yet to show through clearly.
"What we hope is that our lives will change, that there will be true democracy, because this government has stripped us of many aspects of democracy. We want the economy to improve, and for people that have suffered to be able to breathe again," said Syriza supporter Theodoros Kalogyrou.
If Syriza is elected, it would be the first time an anti-bailout party determined to overturn the austerity approach prescribed since the start of the euro zone crisis comes to power in Europe.
"I am really happy, as a leftist I never imagined that this day would come and I think this brings great hope and something that could be positive for everyone. These elections are a celebration for us," said Syriza supporter Akis Rigos.
The result opens a new chapter of political uncertainty in the euro zone's problem child just as it appeared to be putting the worst of a six-year economic crisis behind it. After nearly crashing out of the euro in 2012, Greece this year returned to economic growth and ended a four-year exile from bond markets.
Syriza has held a steady lead in opinion polls for months, although its advantage over Samaras' conservative New Democracy party has narrowed in recent weeks. Weakness among potential coalition partners on both sides could mean that whichever party wins in January will struggle to form a government.
Failure to put together a government could leave Greece once again precariously close to a financial crisis since Athens will be without an administration to wrap up a final bailout inspection due to unlock over 7 billion euros in aid.
EU/IMF inspectors due to return to Athens in January will now resume discussions on concluding that review after a new government is in place, the IMF said, adding that Greece had no immediate funding needs.
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