Crisis management hurts ND

The government will be looking this week to tie up the 28-billion euro support package it has offered to banks, as three opinion polls published yesterday showed it again lagging behind the main opposition PASOK. Bank chiefs are due to meet today to discuss the deal after indicating they are not happy with some of the terms the government is offering. The package has been tweaked since being unveiled last month, but this seems to have given voters the impression that New Democracy is unsure about how to react to the global financial crisis. Equally, the inability of the ruling conservatives to convince the banks to accept the deal on the table does not appear to be going down well with the public. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis publicly urged the banks to reconsider on Friday and his comments were backed up in comments made by Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday. Sources said that the government might step up its public criticism of the banks this week in a bid to deflect negative comments about its own decision-making. Speaking at a meeting of regional PASOK committees yesterday, the party leader, George Papandreou, accused the government of having reached «an impasse» and having «no plan» to ensure that the banks take part in the support scheme. He also called for all banks to be required to freeze loan payments for those unable to meet their obligations. The fallout from the financial crisis is one of the factors that are keeping the conservatives pegged back in the polls. The three surveys published yesterday – by Mark for Sunday’s Ethnos, by MRB for Eleftheros Typos and by Rass for Paron – gave PASOK a lead of 0.4 to 3.7 percent. The Socialists took their first lead in the polls for six years just over a month ago, when the government was still reeling from the resignation of then merchant marine minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and the unfolding Vatopedi property scandal. The parliamentary investigation into the land deal is now picking up pace, so the government will be keen to dampen the impact from other fronts, such as its handling of the economic crisis.