| BERLIN, Sept 28
BERLIN, Sept 28 A leading rebel in Angela
Merkel's coalition said it was still unclear whether the
chancellor would get a majority backing in parliament on the
euro zone rescue fund on Thursday but vowed he would not cave in
to heavy pressure.
Frank Schaeffler, a member of parliament for the Free
Democrats (FDP), said that based on previous test votes there
could be about 15 "no" votes or abstentions in Merkel's
conservatives and up to six dissenters in his FDP.
"It's going to be close," Schaeffler, 42, told the Foreign
Press Association (VAP). "They're going to be working on it
(pressuring dissidents) right up until tomorrow morning. It
might work out, but it might not. I just don't know."
With 330 seats in the 620-seat Bundestag, Merkel can afford
no more than 19 rebels if she is to deliver the required
311-seat majority without relying on the Social Democrats (SPD)
and Greens, who have guaranteed their support for the bill
giving new powers to the European Financial Stability Fund
Merkel will be severely weakened if she fails to win a
majority within her own coalition. The opposition and German
media have questioned how long the alliance could survive a
defeat on the most important vote in her reign.
The next federal election is not due until 2013.
The soft-spoken Schaeffler, an insurance salesman before
entering parliament in 2005, admitted he was being ostracised by
the coalition for his opposition to the euro zone rescue fund
and feeling the effects of the increasing arm-twisting.
"It's not easy when you're an MP and opposing the majority
of your coalition but want stick to your guns," Schaeffler said.
He was perspiring heavily but it was impossible to tell if it
was due to warm Berlin weather or the pressure on him.
"Ostracising the critics isn't the way to resolve the
problem," he said. "It would have been wiser to try to integrate
the critics instead of ostracising them. But that wasn't done.
And now we're in the situation we're in."
Schaeffler, dressed in a smart dark suit, defended his point
of view and said he was not worried about his future.
"In parliament there are mechanisms used to show they're
withdrawing their love for me," he said. "But I'm not unloved in
the party at all. It's less important what happens with me or
the FDP. This isn't the time to worry about my future."
Deputies in the FDP -- and in Merkel's conservatives -- have
no interest in a snap election because they are far behind the
opposition SPD and Greens in opinion polls. The FDP fell to an
all-time low of 2 percent in a poll published on Thursday --
down from the 14.6 percent it won in 2009.
Schaeffler said Greece -- and the euro zone as a whole --
would benefit if Greece quit the euro and brought back the
drachma. He said Greece was a proud nation and should not have
to tolerate so much outside interference.
"The longer we wait, the worse the mess will be," he said.
Schaeffler bristled at the suggestion he was a euro sceptic
and criticised Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble for failing
to defend German interests at European Union meetings.
"I'm not a euro-sceptic. I'm a euro-realist. The others are
euro-romantics. Schaeuble has a romanticised view of Europe.
Germany was taken to the cleaners at the negotiating table."
Schaeffler said he has not tried to rally other like-minded
deputies to his cause. But he struggled to answer the question
whether he would be smiling if Merkel fails to win a majority of
coalition MPs on Thursday.
"I'm not trying to organise any sort of majority (against
the EFSF)," he said. "I want to be able to sleep well at night.
But I don't want to be the only one left voting no. I'm of two
minds (on whether he wants to thwart an own majority). I can't
say yes or no. What I want is a change of course."
(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Giles Elgood)