* Finance minister says sure of victory, opposition to back
* Some govt lawmakers anxious about costs will vote no
By Gareth Jones
BERLIN, Nov 30 Germany's parliament will approve
a fresh bailout for Greece on Friday in a vote seen as a test of
Chancellor Angela Merkel's authority over her centre-right
coalition less than a year before federal elections.
The outcome of Friday's vote in the Bundestag lower house is
not in doubt but Germans are deeply uneasy over the costs of the
euro zone debt crisis and the number of coalition lawmakers
voting against will be keenly watched.
The package of measures to be approved is aimed at reducing
Greece's debt load to 124 percent of gross domestic product
(GDP) by 2020. The government has acknowledged for the first
time this week that the bailout will mean lost federal revenues.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who will deliver the
government's statement on the bailout in Friday's debate, said
he was confident the package would pass comfortably and he
defended Berlin's handling of the three-year-old debt crisis.
"We are trying to keep the costs and risks (of aid to
Greece) as small as possible. We are just following the old rule
of 'step by step'," he told a TV chat show late on Thursday.
Schaeuble said Germany was insisting on strict monitoring of
Greece's reforms to ensure it met its fiscal targets but he also
said the new conservative government in Athens was finally
making headway in tackling the country's fiscal problems.
Echoing that view, Deputy Finance Minister Thomas Steffen
told the economic council of Merkel's Christian Democratic Party
(CDU) on Thursday evening: "The will for renewal exists (in
Greece) ... I believe we have to give the Greeks another
Others are less sanguine. All week, German newspapers have
reverberated with predictions, including from some coalition
lawmakers, that Germany and other euro zone countries will
eventually have to write off some of their Greek debt holdings.
Jens Weidmann, head of Germany's central bank, said on
Thursday the latest bailout did not mean the crisis was over.
"If Greece does not implement the agreed reforms and does
not manage to put its budget on a solid footing, the effect of
the new (aid) measures will evaporate," he said in a speech.
A minority of Merkel's lawmakers will vote against the
package but criticism of the Greek bailouts within her coalition
has softened in recent months after she decided the cost of
expelling Greece from the euro zone would be far greater.
In a test vote on Wednesday, 15 of the 237 lawmakers in
Merkel's own conservative bloc voted against the aid package and
one abstained - though only about two thirds of lawmakers
attended the meeting, participants said.
The Free Democrats, the CDU's junior coalition partner,
expect about 10 of their 93 lawmakers to vote against or
abstain, said a parliamentary source.
That means Merkel is heading for a bigger rebellion than in
a Bundestag vote in July on a rescue package for Spanish banks,
which saw 22 rebels from her centre-right coalition.
The opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens have
confirmed they will back the aid package.
They have accused the Merkel government of deceiving German
voters about the true costs of the Greek bailouts but it is
difficult for them to make political capital out of the issue as
they are strongly pro-euro and support more EU integration.
"Basically they have no choice. If they behave in a way not
supportive of the state, they will be berated as unpatriotic
knaves," the head of the pollster Forsa, Manfred Guellner, told