A cluster of opinion polls burst onto the scene over the weekend after months of quiet, giving both the government and the conservative opposition party enough ammunition to hope for victory in next spring’s elections. The four polls, all of which were conducted after the government announced a series of handouts and social programs worth some 2.6 billion euros, showed ruling PASOK had trimmed the lead New Democracy has enjoyed for the past two years, while ND continued to enjoy a lead of between 6.1 percent and 7.7 percent. All the polls suggested incumbent Costas Simitis was the best candidate for prime minister, leading ND leader Costas Karamanlis by between 3.4 percent and 1.6 percent. «Our initiatives, our work, our program and the people’s confidence in Costas Simitis are creating a new political climate,» government spokesman Christos Protopappas commented on Saturday. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos noted, «There are critical factors and the most critical one is the confidence shown in the prime minister.» ND’s chief of strategy, Giorgos Souflias, said, «ND’s great lead over PASOK is consolidating now at more than 7 percent, but I want to stress that great efforts have to be kept up until the elections.» Most heartening for PASOK was a Kappa Research poll published by To Vima yesterday which put ND ahead by 39.2 percent to 33.1 percent if elections were held today. The 6.1-percent gap is narrower than 7.8 percent in May. A RASS poll published by Kathimerini on Saturday still found a wide gap between the two main parties, with ND getting 37.9 percent to PASOK’s 30.2 percent, but this was down from a 9.8-percent lead recorded by the same company in May. The number of undecided in the RASS poll was 17.3 percent, almost as high as 17.4 percent in May. Also on Saturday, a Metron Analysis poll for Ethnos gave ND 39.3 percent to PASOK’s 32.2 percent (a 7.1-percent lead, down from 8 percent in June). An Opinion poll for Eleftherotypia gave ND 38.1 percent to PASOK’s 30.6 percent, a lead of 7.5 percent. The RASS poll found that 40.8 percent believe Simitis is the best candidate for prime minister, followed by Karamanlis with 39.2 percent. Kappa Research gave Simitis 38.7 percent to Karamanlis’s 35.3 percent. Metron Analysis put the two at 39 percent to 35.7 percent and Opinion at 43.3 percent to 40.0 percent.