Schäuble′s Greece vote exposes slight rift in CDU-CSU bloc | News | DW | 27.02.2015
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Schäuble's Greece vote exposes slight rift in CDU-CSU bloc

An unusually large number of lawmakers in Angela Merkel’s bloc dissented in the vote on extending Greece’s credit. Still, the Bundestag approved the four-month extension by a massive margin: 542-32, with 13 abstentions.

Twenty-nine members of Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Bavarian Christian Social Union alliance voted against extending Greece's credit plan in the Bundestag - more than had previously signaled that they planned to oppose the plan. Three members of the right-wing faction abstained in Friday's vote.

"Look at Tsipras, look at Varoufakis," the dissident Christian Democrat Klaus-Peter Wilsch said in parliament on Friday. "Would you buy a used car from them?" Aid to the financially ailing eurozone nation, he added, "will never end."

Nevertheless, the dissenters and abstainers barely amounted to 10 percent of the total CDU/CSU representation in parliament, at 311 seats. Wolfgang Bosbach, a veteran CDU parliamentarian and member of the Bundestag committee for interior affairs, was arguably the most prominent party rebel in Friday's vote. From Bavaria, former Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer also objected.

Coalition, opposition on board

Five hundred forty-two lawmakers - including all Social Democrats, the junior partners in Merkel's grand coalition - voted "yes," 32 opposed the extension, and 13 abstained. Several parliamentarians who spoke ahead of the vote called for approving the extension, although members of the opposition Left party and the Greens took the opportunity to criticize the government.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble asked parliamentarians to approve the extension despite misgivings over talk of a write-down of Greece's 240-billion-euro ($272-billion) "bailout" from international creditors. Yanis Varoufakis, Schäuble's counterpart in Athens, had advocated such a step.

"We're not talking about new billions for Greece, we're not talking about any changes to this program," Schäuble said, "rather it's about providing or granting extra time to successfully end this program."

'Fig leaf'

On Friday, Varoufakis, who became finance minister in January, called the hard-fought EU deal to secure the extension a "fig leaf" - "deliberately" worded flexibly to secure approval by eurozone parliaments. In an interview with Greek television, the outspoken minister said the government had worded the agreement vaguely at the suggestion of Greece's EU creditors: "Otherwise it would not be approved by parliaments."

Earlier this week, Varoufakis had called on Greece's main international creditors - the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - to end their "bloodletting" of the country, referring to the harsh austerity imposed from abroad. And unrest has grown in Greece, with protesters criticizing the month-old government from the political left.

Germans have grown skeptical since Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took power last month, with a survey this week showing that only 21 percent of those polled backed an extension. The top-selling German daily Bild had staged a front-page campaign for a "NEIN!" in the Bundestag vote, inviting readers to send in photos of themselves with yesterday's paper and it's giant "NO!" caption.

Tensions in Germany's ruling coalition emerged Friday after the Sächsische Zeitung regional newspaper reported that the senior Social Democrat Jörg Asmussen, formerly of the European Central Bank, had secretly reached out to Varoufakis at the beginning of February, keeping the CDU Finance Minister Schäuble out of the loop.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)