Greek election exit polls suggest a strong lead for the leftist Syriza party over the governing conservatives. Syriza led by Alexis Tsipras has more than 35 percent with premier Antonis Samaras' party around 25 percent.
Syriza received between 35.5 and 39.5 percent of the national vote, ahead of Samaras' centre-right New Democracy party which took 23 to 27 percent, according to an exit poll published by Metron Analysis, GPO, Alco, MRB, and Marc as balloting ended on Sunday.
Three other exit surveys released by private and public broadcasters after polls closed showed similar leads for Syriza.
"What's clear is we have a historic victory that sends a message that does not only concern the Greek people, but all European peoples," Syriza party spokesman Panos Skourletis told Mega television.
If the early surveys are confirmed, Syriza's leader Tsipras would become Greece's youngest-ever prime minister, heading a government openly opposed to bailout conditions imposed by international lenders.
During campaigning, Tsipras had called for renegotiation of a chunk of Greek debt.
It was unclear initially whether Syriza would garner 151 seats to govern alone in Greece's 300-seat parliament or would need to turn to coalition partners.
Centrists To Potami and far-right Golden Dawn were tied for third spot with 6.4 to 8 percent of the vote, according to the exit surveys.
The surveys also indicated that seven or eight parties will make it into the next Greek parliament.
The biggest party generally needs between 36 and 40 percent of the vote to win outright although the exact figure depends on the share of the vote taken by parties that fail to cross the 3 percent threshold to enter parliament.
The first official results are expected around 9:30 p.m. local time, or 1930 UTC.
End of an era?
Samaras' New Democracy, along with the main centre-left party PASOK, have traded power since the end of Greece's dictatorship in 1974.
Samaras had pleaded with voters to stick with salary cuts and tax increases to stabilize Greece's battered economy.
During the election campaign, Tsipras moderated his anti-austerity and anti-EU rhetoric by promising to keep Greece in the eurozone.
But, he continued to challenge austerity moves required as part of a 240-billion-euro (270-billion-dollar) emergency bailout negotiated since 2010 with the European
Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Abide by commitments
Greece's creditors have insisted that Athens must abide by previous commitments for it to continue receiving support.
Greek unemployment remains around 25 percent and last year public debt was a staggering 175 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Sunday's snap election was triggered in December when Samaras failed three times to secure parliamentary backing for his nominee for president.
ipj/bw (dpa, AFP)