A major rift in New Democracy’s fragile unity developed yesterday after the party’s honorary president, Constantine Mitsotakis, called its leader, Antonis Samaras, a «populist» and the latter responded by suggesting that the 91-year-old’s opinions were no longer relevant. Mitsotakis prompted a blunt retort from Samaras after criticizing his response to the economic crisis and the policies of previous Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. «George Papandreou was just as believable when he said before the general election last year that ‘The money is there’ as Antonis Samaras is when he says he can wipe out the deficit by the end of 2011,» Mitsotakis told Mega TV on Monday night. «There is no doubt that Mr Samaras is a populist.» Although Mitsotakis, prime minister between 1990 and 1993, said Greece’s economic problems date back to the 80s when the country’s leader Andreas Papandreou borrowed heavily to fund generous benefits and a growing public sector, he also laid some of the blame for the current crisis at the feet of Karamanlis and his government. «I was disappointed by ND,» he said «I am critical of the Karamanlis period because it was a time when ND could have done better things.» Sources said Samaras watched Mitsotakis’s interview at Corfu airport and immediately ordered that a strongly worded response be put out. «Four months before the local elections, Mr Mitsotakis is acting as a lifesaver for Mr Papandreou and tonight attacked the party that helped him to one of the country’s highest posts at a time when it is clear that PASOK is on the wane and New Democracy is making a comeback,» ND said. The statement ended with the words «Good night, Mr Mitsotakis.» This marked the latest episode in the ongoing rift between Samaras, whose departure from Mitsotakis’s government triggered its downfall, and the 91-year-old. Samaras also ousted Mitsotakis’s daughter, Dora Bakoyannis, from ND earlier this year a few months after defeating her in a leadership vote. However, Mitsotakis’s son, Kyriakos, a serving ND deputy, said he disagreed with his father’s comments and had no intention of leaving the party. The Samaras camp is hoping that the spat will galvanize the party, which, contrary to its claims of making a comeback, is languishing on 28 percent support according to a Public Issue poll published in Sunday’s Kathimerini.