Merkel ally apologises for swearing at bailout rebel
(Attention: story contains offensive language)
* Merkel's right-hand man apologises for swearing at bailout critic
* Survey shows Germans want Pofalla to resign
* Dispute highlights tension within Merkel's coalition
By Sarah Marsh
BERLIN, Oct 4 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-hand man publicly apologised for hurling expletives at a respected ally who voted against the party line on the euro zone bailout fund, highlighting tensions within her coalition.
Coalition infighting has damaged its popularity and weakened Merkel's authority at a time when pressure is building for Berlin to offer decisive solutions to Europe's debt crisis.
Merkel's chief of staff Ronald Pofalla last week publicly harangued Wolfgang Bosbach, a mild-mannered and respected conservative lawmaker, for daring to vote against giving more powers to the fund in a key vote.
"I am annoyed myself over what happened and I am extraordinarily sorry," Pofalla was quoted as saying by mass-selling Bild daily, in an interview to be published on Wednesday.
Pofalla was lambasted by leaders in his own Christian Democrats and their Free Democrats coalition partners for his behaviour, while a survey by daily Die Welt showed some 96 percent of the 3,443 polled thought he should step down.
"I can't stand the sight of your stupid face anymore," Pofalla shouted in a hallway before a crucial vote in parliament on Thursday, according to an account in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that quoted witnesses.
"You're making everyone crazy with your shit."
The Bundestag lower house of parliament last week easily approved extending the power's of the euro zone's bailout fund since most of the opposition voted in favour.
But before the vote fears were running high that Merkel's coalition would fail to secure its own majority for the measure, which would have seriously weekend the chancellor's authority and affected her room to manoeuvre on crisis action.
Eventually, thanks to arm-twisting by Pofalla and others, just 10 coalition lawmakers voted against and 315 in favour -- four more than the minimum.
Critics have accused Merkel and her entourage of putting undue pressure on lawmakers to vote along the party line.
The fallout from last week's vote remains front page news in Germany because polls show the public overwhelmingly opposed to further support for Greece and other euro zone strugglers. Many expect the number of rebel MPs to rise before the next euro zone vote in parliament.
Pofalla has long had a reputation as Merkel's hot-tempered attack dog. Before becoming chancellery minister in 2009, he was deputy party leader and a ruthless critic of Merkel's opponents.
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