Economy, MP trouble ND

With one eye on the battle it faces to convince voters that it can handle the economic crisis, the New Democracy government yesterday began putting pressure on ousted MP Petros Tatoulis to give up his parliamentary seat rather than sit as an independent. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis did not refer to Tatoulis at all during his news conference after a meeting with Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. The premier, however, did comment on the economy and again scolded banks for not participating in the 28-billion-euro support package proposed by the conservatives. Karamanlis made the comments as PASOK leader George Papandreou met with the heads of several banks as he finalizes his party’s policies to tackle the financial crisis. Papandreou is expected to suggest this week that the banks should refinance loans taken out by small and medium-sized business while freezing the interest on loans for certain social groups. The Socialists believe that they can score points over ND by adopting a stance that is more attractive to the average Greek. This is an area that has split senior ND ministers during the last few weeks. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis has come under pressure to come up with ways of making the government more responsive to voters who are feeling the pinch due to the economic turbulence. Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, one of the leading skeptics, reiterated veiled criticism of Alogoskoufis yesterday. Although the two parties will be fighting it out over the economy for the next few days behind the scenes, PASOK’s hierarchy has agreed that the party needs to be prepared for the possibility of Karamanlis calling snap elections. The ousting of Tatoulis on Monday has left the conservatives with a one-seat majority and the government has begun to put pressure on him to quit Parliament. «I expect Mr Tatoulis to give up his seat,» said party secretary Lefteris Zagoritis. «He exceeded all limits and left us with no choice.» Several ND deputies echoed Zagoritis’s view. However, it seems unlikely that Tatoulis will step down completely.