German parliament to vote on boosting bailout fund

Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:18pm EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angel Merkel looks set to win a parliamentary vote Wednesday on boosting the firepower of the euro zone rescue fund with a large majority, bolstering her negotiating strength ahead of a crunch EU summit.

Merkel needs to win the vote in the Bundestag lower house of parliament, due around 1200 GMT, to have a mandate to negotiate a deal with other EU leaders aimed at delivering a range of measures to stop the euro zone debt crisis spiralling.

The bill will almost certainly pass as the government has agreed a joint motion on the plans with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens.

The question is whether Merkel, who still faces a rebellion from within her own center-right coalition, can pass it without having to rely on the opposition, which would be a severe blow.

A test run held Tuesday showed she is likely to win the vote without needing opposition support -- but only just. In the ballot, a total of 16 lawmakers from Merkel's coalition parties either voted against or abstained.

The proposals, to increase the efficiency of the 440 billion euro ($610 billion) fund without pouring more taxpayers' money into it, are the subject of fierce debate in Europe's largest economy and biggest contributor to the fund.

Merkel is battling sliding ratings for herself and her center-right coalition over her handling of the euro zone crisis. Critics at home and abroad have accused her of taking a dithering approach that has exacerbated the debt crisis.

Merkel's hands have been tied in her negotiations on the euro zone crisis since a Constitutional Court ruling last month demanded a greater say for German lawmakers on bailout issues.   Continued...