German Chancellor Angela Merkel won strong backing as expected for the planned leveraging of the euro rescue fund in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday.
Of 596 votes cast, 503 members of parliament voted in favor of the motion, with 89 no votes and four abstentions. The motion had cross-party backing from the parties in Merkel's coalition and from the opposition Social Democrats and Greens.
The leveraging, intended to boost the firepower of the €440 billion rescue fund, is part of a package of measures designed to tackle the debt crisis and protect the single currency. Other steps are expected to include a Greek debt cut of up to 60 percent and a plan to recapitalize European banks to shield them from the resulting writedowns of their bond holdings.
The vote is expected to strengthen Merkel's position in summit talks in Brussels on Wednesday night.
'The World Is Watching Germany'
Merkel reached the symbolically important absolute majority within her own coalition even though a number of lawmakers within it voted against the motion out of concern that it entails heightened risks for German taxpayers.
A total of 311 members of parliament from her conservatives and her junior coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democratic Party, backed the motion, conservative sources said. That is the minimum number needed for her coalition to retain an absolute majority of all 620 seats in parliament. There are 330 coalition members of parliament in total. Some of them were absent due to illness and official trips.
In a speech ahead of the vote, Merkel said Europe's future prosperity and peace were at stake in the negotiations.
"The world is watching Germany and Europe. It is watching to see if we are prepared and capable of taking responsibility in the hour of Europe's worst crisis since the end of World War II," she said.