Slovakian lawmakers on Thursday approved expanding the size and powers of the EU bailout fund, overcoming an earlier rejection and removing the last hurdle to the fund's use as the continent's main weapon against the debt crisis.
The parliament had rejected the changes to the bailout fund on Tuesday because a junior coalition partner, the Freedom and Solidarity party, was against it. In a desperate effort to force that party to vote in favor, Prime Minister Iveta Radicova had tied the vote on the bailout fund to a confidence vote in the government. When the vote failed, her 1-year-old government collapsed.
The main opposition party, Smer-Social Democracy, then agreed to help the outgoing coalition approve the expanded fund in a second vote in exchange for early elections.
On Thursday, parliament voted in favor of holding early elections in March, with 143 in favor and 3 against. Just a half hour later, they approved boosting the bailout fund — 114 were in favor, while only 76 votes were needed.
Slovakia is the last of the 17 eurozone nations to approve boosting the 440 billion euro bailout ($600 billion) fund, called the European Financial Stability Facility. The fund will be able to lend quickly to governments before they are in a full-blown crisis and to help them boost banks' health.
With the government defunct, and with the promise of early elections, Smer chairman and former Prime Minister Robert Fico had struck a deal Wednesday with leaders of three parties of the outgoing coalition to vote in favor of the bailout fund.
His leftist party is currently by far the strongest political force in the country and stands a good chance to win the early ballot in March.
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