Alexis Tsipras, head of the left-wing Syriza party, won Greece's parliamentary election for the second time this year on Sunday and says he will form a coalition government with the small right-wing Independent Greeks.
Jubilant supporters of the left-wing Syriza party cheered, waved party flags and danced Sunday after the party comfortably won Greece's third national vote this year despite a party rebellion over his acceptance of a painful third international bailout.
Speaking before thousands of jubilant supporters in central Athens, Tsipras said he was joining forces once again with Panos Kammenos, the junior coalition partner with whom he governed from January until last month.
Kammenos joined him on stage to rapturous applause from the crowd.
With 61 percent of the vote counted, Syriza had 35.5 percent of the vote and 145 seats in the 300-member parliament, while the Independent Greeks were in seventh place with 3.6 percent and 10 seats.
The conservative New Democracy was in second place with 28.2 percent.
The result was a resounding success for Tsipras' high-risk gamble when he resigned last month and triggered early elections barely seven months into his four-year term. He wanted to face down a rebellion within Syriza over his decision to accept painful austerity measures in return for Greece's third international bailout.
Syriza fell short of a governing majority in the 300-member parliament and was projected to win 145 seats. But Tsipras expects to form a coalition government with ease.
Panos Kammenos, head of the small right-wing Independent Greeks party that was Tsipras' junior coalition partner in a short-lived seven-month government, was at 3.7 percent and 10 seats in parliament. He said he will once more join in a coalition.
"I am in contact with Alexis Tsipras ... our new effort begins tomorrow (Monday)," he said.
Tsipras has three days to form a government.
New Democracy head Vangelis Meimarakis conceded defeat and called for a government to be formed quickly. "I congratulate him and call on him to form the government that is necessary, and bring the (proposal) to parliament," Meimarakis said.
A total of eight parties appeared set to win parliamentary seats. The new anti-bailout Popular Unity party, formed by rebel Syriza members who objected to Tsipras' agreement to a third bailout for Greece and the stringent austerity attached to it, was falling short of the 3 percent parliamentary threshold.
"We lost the battle, but not the war," said Popular Unity head Panagiotis Lafazanis, Tsipras' former energy minister.
It is the third time this year Greeks have voted, after January elections that brought Tsipras to power on an anti-bailout platform, and a July referendum he called urging voters to reject creditor reform proposals.
Tsipras had argued he had no choice but to accept the creditor demands for more tax hikes and spending cuts in return for Greece's third rescue, a three-year package worth $97 billion. Without it, Greece — which has relied on international rescue loans since 2010 — faced bankruptcy and a potentially disastrous exit from Europe's joint currency.
The pre-election campaign was muted in comparison to the frenetic, high-stakes January campaign, which pitted the anti-bailout Tsipras against centrist parties that argued the deal with other eurozone countries was the best hope for an eventual return to some form of economic normalcy.
Now, the policies for the winner have already been set in the bailout deal, and the anti-austerity camp has been reduced to Golden Dawn and the Communist Party inside parliament, as well as Popular Unity.
Meimarakis' campaign had centered on a return to stability. He painted Tsipras as a reckless, inexperienced politician who led the country toward a potential catastrophe and introduced strict banking restrictions in an effort to stem a bank run.
Syriza's campaign focused on doing away with the staid and often corrupt politics of the past.
The new government will have little time to waste. Creditors are expected to review progress of reforms as part of the bailout next month, while the government will also have to draft the 2016 state budget, overhaul the pension system, raise a series of taxes, including on farmers, carry out privatizations and merge social security funds.