Merkel confident of own majority for Greece aid vote

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday she was "confident" her squabbling coalition would muster its own majority in a pivotal parliamentary vote this month on expanding the eurozone's rescue fund.

She told reporters after a dire showing of her junior partners in government, the Free Democrats, in a Berlin state election that she thought the unity of the alliance would hold for the vote on September 29.

"We had this majority for every other vote on European policy which is why I am confident that we will of course have a majority with our own votes," Merkel said, when asked about the prospects for the bailout bill.

The Free Democrats scored a dismal 1.8 percent of the vote Sunday, failing to reach the five-percent mark required for representation for the fifth time in a state election this year.

Merkel's Christian Democrats placed a respectable second in the left-leaning region.

The setback for the coalition sparked speculation that Merkel could have a tough time scraping together a centre-right majority for the vote on the eurozone rescue fund before the Bundestag lower house.

The bill would ratify boosting the volume and scope of the eurozone's rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), as agreed by European leaders in July.

Several coalition deputies have threatened to vote against the bill and although Merkel is assured of passage as the opposition says it will vote in favour, a failure to wrangle her own majority could spark a political crisis.

Merkel hinted that the Free Democrats had made a major tactical error by flirting with euroscepticism during the Berlin campaign.

"In the euro crisis, everyone must choose his words very carefully," she said. "I think all the members of the coalition understand their responsibilities."

© 2011 AFP

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