Greece Elections: Greeks Go to Polls for Third Time This Year

Image: Former Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras waves as he leaves a polling station in Athens
Former PM Tsipras leaves a polling station in Athens.PAUL HANNA / Reuters

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By The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — Greeks were voting on Sunday in their third national polls this year, called on to choose who they trust to steer the country into its new international bailout.

Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party, which made pledges to implement austerity measures in return for billions of euros in rescue loans, was marginally ahead of the rival center-right New Democracy in opinion polls leading up to the vote.

Former PM Tsipras leaves a polling station in Athens.PAUL HANNA / Reuters

But the surveys, which showed many of the 9.9 million voters were undecided until two days before the vote or might abstain altogether, indicated the winner would not have enough votes to form a government alone.

Early voter turnout appeared low early Sunday. Tsipras, 41, triggered the election by resigning barely seven months into his four-year term, after facing a rebellion within Syriza over his policy U-turn in accepting the spending cuts and tax hikes stipulated by the bailout.

Tsipras had won January elections on pledges of abolishing such measures, tied to Greece's first two bailouts. He has argued he had no choice but to accept the demands of European creditors for more tax hikes and spending cuts in return for Greece's third rescue, a three-year package worth 86 billion euros ($97 billion).

Related: Greek Lawmakers Back Bailout After Marathon Debate

He had vowed to repeal the measures imposed in return for the country's first two bailouts — and despite winning a referendum he hastily called July 5 urging Greeks to reject creditor reform proposals.

But without the third bailout, Greece — which has relied on international rescue loans since 2010 — faced bankruptcy and a potentially disastrous exit from Europe's joint currency.

Polls close at 7 p.m. (11:00 ET) and final results are expected by early Monday local time.