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Defiant Greek leftist refuses to back austerity

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has refused to back austerity measures against Greece.

Anti-austerity protesters in Greece. Picture:AFP

ATHENS - Greece's surging leftist leader predicted on Thursday his party would sweep next month's election and refused to stop demanding an end to "barbaric" austerity policies he said were bankrupting the nation.

Increasingly worried about Greece's future in the euro zone, foreign lenders and mainstream parties have stepped up warnings that the country risks being cut off from aid if it fails to stick to spending cuts included in its latest bailout package.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, the 37-year-old rising star of Greek politics, promised he would listen to neither group.

"They are trying to terrorise the people to make SYRIZA cave in. We will never compromise," the ex-Communist student leader told his party's lawmakers, often addressing them as "comrades".

"We will never participate in a government to rescue the bailout."

Polls conducted after an inconclusive May 6 vote suggest SYRIZA is on track to surpass the conservatives to become the biggest party in parliament when Greeks vote on June 17.

Enraged with repeated rounds of austerity that have slashed wages and sent jobless rates soaring, voters have shrugged off warnings from leaders like European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who said Greeks must choose wisely in the vote to avoid pushing the country out of the euro zone.

Tsipras, who has charmed voters with his good looks and promise to tear up the bailout deal while keeping Greece in the euro, said the mood among voters would not change and predicted SYRIZA would have twice as many lawmakers in a month's time.

"The Greek people voted for an end to the bailout and barbaric austerity. They ignored the threats and the cheap propaganda. And we are certain they will do the same now," Tsipras said.

"The people will complete on June 17 the great step forward they took on May 6, regardless of what Mr. Barroso says."

The latest poll, conducted by Pulse for the To Pontiki newspaper on May 15-16 showed SYRIZA taking 24.5 percent of the vote in the election, putting it ahead of all other parties. First place comes with a bonus of 50 extra seats in the 300 seat parliament, which went to the conservatives last time.

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