The government yesterday responded to heightened opposition criticism of its handling of the economy and the spread of swine flu in Greece by accusing main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou of «irresponsibility.» The strongest criticism came from Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou who, following talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis about next year’s budget, issued a stern personal attack on Papandreou. «The leader of PASOK has surpassed every limit of base populism and irresponsibility. Although he is aware of the serious repercussions that the [global economic] crisis has had on the Greek economy, he has not supported even one of the measures that we have taken,» Papathanassiou told reporters outside the Maximos Mansion. The minister went on to add that the country is currently in need of a «comprehensive plan to extract it from the crisis» and not «the contradictory and abstract ideas being propounded by PASOK.» Papathanassiou’s remarks came in the wake of repeated insistence by Papandreou over the past few days that the ruling conservatives «have no plan» for effective governance, that «the country is in absolute deadlock» and that general elections should be held «here and now.» A spokeswoman for PASOK, Maria Karaklioumi, yesterday responded to Papathanassiou’s criticism of Papandreou, who was yesterday on an official visit to the Palestinian territories, by accusing the government of leading Greece into «fiscal deadlock.» Meanwhile, sources told Kathimerini that several New Democracy cadres have been worried that President Karolos Papoulias may choose not to run for a second term as a result of PASOK’s insistence on forcing early elections. Legal experts have been arguing over whether PASOK is breaching the constitution by saying that, although it supports Papoulias, it intends to vote against him in order to force the government to call national polls. Papandreou and Karamanlis are expected to cross swords next month at the traditional Thessaloniki International Fair when the possibility of early elections will return to the fore and interest in the economy will sharpen ahead of the government’s scheduled unveiling of the draft budget for 2010 in October.