Image: George Papandreou
Thanassis Stavrakis  /  AP
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou leaves the election booth during the municipal and regional elections in Athens, on Sunday.
updated 11/7/2010 4:48:45 PM ET 2010-11-07T21:48:45

Greece's prime minister dropped his threat to call an early elections Sunday, saying Greeks voting in crucial local elections had shown they wanted his government to continue its efforts to pull the debt-ridden country out of a severe financial crisis.

Papandreou had vowed to call snap elections if his PASOK party fared badly in Sunday's vote for 13 regional governors and 325 mayors, billed as a referendum of the government's austerity measures.

But official projections showing PASOK-backed candidates lead in seven of the country's 13 regional races in the first round of voting. A runoff vote will be held on Nov. 14 in areas where candidates do not win outright.

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"We know that change is not easy. But it was for this change that the Greek people brought us to power a year ago. And today it again confirmed that it wants this change," Papandreou said in live televised address to the nation.

"Tomorrow we will continue our work, remaining dedicated to the great challenge, to the salvation of country and to creating a better country with a viable economy in which we chose our own fate, far from supervision and economic dependence."

Greece is under close supervision by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, who have extended the cash-strapped country a three-year, euro110 billion($140 billion) package of rescue loans to save it from defaulting on its debts.

In return, the government has implemented strict austerity measures, including cutting civil servants' salaries, hiking taxes and freezing pensions.

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