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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 12:44 GMT
Schroeder survives confidence vote
Joschka Fischer and parliamentary deputies
The threatened Green rebellion was muted
The lower house of the German parliament has passed a motion of confidence in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's coalition government by a narrow majority.

The vote, which followed an emotional debate, approved the government's decision to deploy almost 4,000 troops in the US-led war on terror.

Mr Schroeder called the confidence motion after some Greens in the ruling coalition threatened to vote against military deployment.

For a decision of such consequences it is absolutely necessary that the chancellor and the government relies on a majority from its own coalition

Gerhard Schroeder
But in the event only four Green deputies rebelled and the motion was passed by 336 votes to 326.

"For a decision of such consequence it is absolutely necessary that the chancellor and the government rely on a majority from its own coalition," Mr Schroeder told a packed lower house.

The military deployment - Germany's largest since World War II - is aimed at securing and delivering humanitarian aid to Afghan people, not combat action and the troops will not be inside Afghanistan itself.

Green split

The Greens, who joined government for the first time after the 1997 elections, have been split over their desire to stay in power and their loyalty to their roots in the pacifist movement.

Many believed that if the coalition collapsed, the Greens would not be able to get back into government for several generations.

Gerhard Schroeder
Gerhard Schroeder: Reliability of the government under scrutiny
Leading Green politician Claudia Roth said she was pleased with the vote, saying it was a "responsible" move.

The decision to deploy the troops could have been passed relying on support from the opposition Christian Democrats, but Mr Schroeder said that a majority within the government was necessary to show German citizens as well as international partners that the German Government could be relied on.

Confidence motions are extremely rare in Germany. This is only the fourth in post-war history and the first to be tied to a matter of policy.

'Power games'

Mr Schroeder has been criticised from both left and right for his handling of the situation.

The parliamentary head of the former communists, PDS, Roland Claus said that Mr Schroeder's "power games" were not compatible with democracy.

Protest outside parliament
Public opinion is also split over the deployment of German troops
And the PDS leader, Gregor Gysi, condemned the Greens who opposed the war but had supported the confidence motion, saying that it was "damaging to politics and a sign of oppotunism".

The CDU parliamentary leader, Friedrich Merz, said that Mr Schroeder's actions had harmed Germany's image abroad.

"You are playing thoughtlessly with foreign policy because you cannot manage your domestic policies, in a last-ditch effort to save your government," he said.

But representatives of both the SPD and the Greens expressed their confidence in and support for the chancellor.

They said that Germany had a historic duty to repay the solidarity that other countries, particularly the US, had shown the country after World War II.

Fatal blow?

While the coalition survived the day, opponents claimed that the Red-Green union was mortally wounded.

"The Red-Green project is over - it will be an agony from now until the elections," predicted the deputy head of the Liberals (FDP) in parliament.

Michal Glos, from the Bavarian Christian Social Union, said that the coalition was being kept alive "artificially".

The Greens will face the wrath of their staunchly pacifist grass-roots supporters at a party conference in Rostock next week.

Some analysts are predicting a major split.

The BBC's Rob Broomby
"This was Gerhard Schroeder's most testing debate so far"
See also:

14 Nov 01 | Media reports
Press split on Schroeder confidence tactic
13 Nov 01 | Europe
Schroeder calls confidence vote
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Germany's creaking cabinet
06 Nov 01 | Europe
Germany agrees Afghanistan force
15 Oct 01 | Europe
German Greens split on terror war
19 Sep 01 | Europe
Germany backs military action
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