Greece’s conservative New Democracy is poised to win Sunday’s election, but is far short of the majority needed for an outright victory, an initial exit poll shows.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s party is heading towards 36-40% of the vote.
Predecessor Alexis Tsipras’ centre-left Syriza is far behind with 25-29%.
If neither party can form a coalition, Greek voters will return to vote in a second round in early July.
The joint exit poll, by six polling agencies, was met with cheers at New Democracy’s headquarters in Athens.
However, experts have warned that it may prove unreliable because many voters refused to reveal which party they had supported.
One of the big winners of the election appeared to be Syriza’s socialist rival Pasok, who was predicted to attract 9.5-12.5% of the vote.
That would make the party a potential kingmaker in coalition negotiations with both the center-right and Syriza in the coming days.
Mitsotakis’ centre-right has ruled Greece for the past four years and boasts that the country’s growth last year was close to 6%.
However, the election campaign was overshadowed by a railway tragedy in February that killed 57 people, many of them students.
Opposition parties highlighted the disaster as a symptom of a dysfunctional state that has been cut to the bone after years of economic crisis and underinvestment.
Four years ago, winning 40% of the vote would have been enough to secure a majority in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.
Now it requires more than 45% because the winning party is no longer eligible for a 50-seat bonus in the first round, making a second round more likely.