By Vittorio Hernandez

Bratislava, Slovakia

Slovakia rejected the proposed expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility.

The measure was defeated by 21 votes after eight hours of debate by Slovakian parliament members.

Of the 150 MPs, only 55 favored the expansion of the fund, nine voted against it and 60 legislators did not join in the ballot as a deliberate boycott of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (FSP), which is part of the four-party ruling coalition.

Slovakia is the second poorest country in the 17-member eurozone. Members of the FSP who voted against the expansion of the bailout fund said Slovakians are against being asked to pay for the debt of countries richer than them.

The Slovakian government, which is the last to vote of the EPSF expansion, said it would attempt to pass the measure on a second vote and would seek the support of the opposition.

Following the voting, Slovakian Prime Minister Iveta Radicova said she would ask coalition partners to convince the socialist opposition Smer Party - which abstained in the voting - to change its stand. Observers said Smer could be convinced, but may trade for demands for a fresh election.

Radicova, who campaigned for the approval of the EPSF, told Slovakian MPs that their approval is crucial because the entire eurozone system is under threat, not just smaller zone members.

She said that Slovakia is connected to the global economy. If the fund were not expanded, Spanish and Portuguese citizens would lack purchasing power to buy vehicles made in Slovakia, the prime minister stressed.

All 17 members of the eurozone are required to approve the bailout fund's expansion, which is among the measures proposed in July to halt the worsening debt contagion that is fast spreading throughout the area.

The Slovakian votes caused a drop in share markets as investors became jittery once again over the prospect of a Greek debt default. European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet warned that the political deadlock would threaten the European Union's political stability and impact the European and global economies.


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