PASOK, ND look inward

PASOK and New Democracy put the country’s economic problems aside yesterday by turning inward and, in an effort to address issues blighting both parties, the Socialists distanced themselves from comments by Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos while the conservatives reshuffled their shadow cabinet. Pangalos attracted negative criticism recently when he used particularly disparaging language to describe public sector workers. His comments produced a backlash from civil servants who have seen their wages and benefits slashed dramatically over the past 12 months. The outspoken deputy prime minister is known for making brash statements and also drew considerable fire last year, when he claimed that the Greek people were as responsible for the economic crisis as their politicians by saying, «We all squandered the money together.» Pressure grew on Pangalos yesterday in the wake of weekend media reports that he spent a lavish New Year’s Eve at a luxury Athenian hotel at the expense of the family that owns it. The reports were denied by Pangalos’s office but the government nevertheless felt it was time to start distancing itself from his comments. «Mr Pangalos did not try to express the positions of the government,» spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said yesterday. «These comments are representative of the person who made them and of his opinions.» Alternate Defense Minister Panos Beglitis went even further. «Mr Pangalos’s comments annoy me and I feel that making lots of comments and accusations does not help the situation,» he told Skai TV. «Adopting an accusatory tone does not solve our problems and is best avoided.» Meanwhile, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras attempted to breathe new life into his flagging party by broadening his shadow cabinet to include 70 of his 86 MPs and by moving some of his personnel to different departments. One of the key moves saw ND spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos take up the foreign affairs portfolio. He was replaced by the former editor of Eleftheros Typos newspaper Yiannis Michelakis. «This creates a setup that gives the parliamentary group a greater sense of participation and which is more functional for the party,» said Samaras. «We have to cover that crucial distance that will bring us back to power by using all the strengths we possess.»