Germany’s top-selling newspaper called Chancellor Angela Merkel a coward on its front page for staying silent during a parliamentary debate on Greece’s bailout and celebrated lawmakers who voted against it.
A two-page spread in Bild featured photos of all 67 lawmakers in Merkel’s coalition who cast dissenting votes when the lower house approved Germany’s contribution to as much as 86 billion euros ($96 billion) in aid to Greece on Wednesday.
“They were the righteous ones,” Axel Springer SE’s Bild, which sells about 2.2 million copies daily, said in its Thursday edition, portraying the defectors as bucking Merkel’s pressure to vote yes. “The chancellor ducked Europe’s thorniest issue.”
The attack is in tune with a growing revolt in Merkel’s party bloc and a minority of Germans who polls suggest are opposed to helping Greece and keeping it in the euro area, where Germany is the biggest contributor to sovereign bailouts. Christiane Wirtz, a German government spokeswoman, declined to comment on the criticism when contacted by text message.
Bild has sniped at Greece for years, including a 2011 headline saying “Take the euro away from the Greeks!” Its criticism of Merkel has mostly been more restrained.
Merkel addressed the parliament during the last vote on Greece in July, saying it was worth seeking another rescue for Europe’s most-indebted nation after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepted demands for austerity and asset sales. This time, she let Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble introduce the government motion on funding the bailout.
“Merkel’s cowardly performance,” read Bild’s front-page headline. “86 billion euros for Greece. And the chancellor is silent.”
Eighty-three of 311 lawmakers in Merkel’s parliamentary group didn’t support the chancellor after she lobbied for the bailout that euro-area finance ministers approved last week: 63 voted against, three abstained and 17 didn’t vote. Four members of her Social Democratic coalition ally also voted no. Even so, the bailout passed on a vote of 453-113, with 18 abstentions.
In July, 60 members of Merkel’s Christian Democrat-led group were opposed when the lower house voted to open talks on further aid to Greece.
Fourty-four percent of Germans oppose further aid to Greece and 52 percent are in favor, according to an Infratest poll for ARD televsion taken July 13, the day Tsipras accepted conditions by other euro-area leaders, including Merkel, for a third bailout. Keeping Greece in the euro was favored by 62 percent, while 32 percent said the currency union would be better off without Greece, according to the poll. The poll has a margin of error of as many as 3.3 percentage points.