Athens: Jubilant supporters of Alexis Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party cheered, waved party flags and danced 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.
With 54 per cent of the vote counted, Syriza stood at 35.5 per cent, with the conservative New Democracy at 28 per cent while the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn was coming in third with 7.1 per cent, followed closely by the once-mighty socialist PASOK party with 6.4 per cent.
Abstention was high, at nearly 45 per cent in an election-weary country with a traditionally high voter turnout.
Syriza fell short of a governing majority in the 300-member parliament and was projected to win 145 seats. But he was expected to form a coalition government with ease.
Panos Kammenos, head of the small right-wing Independent Greeks party who was Tsipras' junior coalition partner in a short-lived seven-month government, was at 3.7 per cent 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 will receive the mandate to seek coalition partners from the country's president Monday, giving him three days to form a government.
New Democracy head Vangelis Meimarakis conceded defeat and called for a government to be formed quickly.
"The election result appears to be forming comprehensively with Syriza and Mr. Tsipras coming first," Meimarakis said. "I congratulate him and call on him to form the government that is necessary, and bring the (proposal) to parliament."
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 per cent parliamentary threshold.
"We lost the battle, but not the war," said Popular Unity head Panagiotis Lafazanis, Tsipras' former energy minister.
A tired-looking Tsipras was hugged by party supporters as he arrived at Syriza headquarters, waving to the crowd gathered outside.
"What a result! It's hard to describe. Tsipras will fight for the people, for Greece and for Europe," said Maria Nixa, a 58-year-old private company employee celebrating outside Syriza's main election campaign booth in central Athens. Retiree Antonis Antonios, 75, echoed her sentiments.