BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-hand man hurled expletives in public at a respected party ally who dared to vote against giving more powers to the euro zone rescue fund, newspapers reported on Sunday.
Ronald Pofalla, Merkel's chief of staff, was lambasted by leaders in the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Free Democrats (FDP) coalition partners for a public haranguing of Wolfgang Bosbach, a mild-mannered and respected conservative MP.
"I can't stand the sight of your stupid face anymore," Pofalla shouted in a hallway before a crucial vote in parliament on Thursday, according to an account in the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that quoted witnesses.
"You're making everyone crazy with your shit."
Bosbach, a veteran CDU lawmaker and chairman of the interior affairs committee, told the newspaper he was "trying to forget" the exchange and said the two would meet this month.
Pofalla declined to comment, Bild am Sonntag said. He could not be reached by Reuters.
On Thursday Bosbach told Reuters he was dismayed by "below the belt" attacks from his own party.
The dispute highlights the tensions in the coalition both before and after Thursday's vote, and could further feed public resentment of support for Greece.
The lower house easily approved the measure giving new powers to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) since most of the opposition voted in favour.
But Merkel's authority over the centre-right coalition could have been weakened, and the euro zone crisis worsened, if the coalition had failed to secure its own majority.
Eventually, thanks to arm-twisting by Pofalla and others, just 10 coalition lawmakers voted against and 315 in favour -- four more than the minimum.
Horst Seehofer, leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Merkel's CDU, defended Bosbach.
"Wolfgang Bosbach has always had solid arguments," Seehofer told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "He's not a troublemaker."
Erika Steinbach, a senior MP for Merkel's CDU, told Bild am Sonntag that Pofalla's behaviour was "a blow to democracy."
The fallout from last week's EFSF approval remains front page news in Germany because polls show the public overwhelmingly opposed to further support for Greece and other euro zone strugglers. Many expect the number of rebel MPs to rise before the next euro zone vote in parliament.
Pofalla has long had a reputation as Merkel's hot-tempered attack dog. Before becoming chancellery minister in 2009, he was deputy party leader and a ruthless critic of Merkel's opponents.
His expletive-filled outburst -- a rarity in the normally polite world of German politics -- came after Bosbach tried to explain his objections to the EFSF and said MPs were constitutionally obliged to vote according to their conscience.
"Leave me alone with all that shit," Pofalla shouted, according to reports based on eyewitness accounts that appeared in several German newspapers.
(Additional reporting by Edgar Sommer; Editing by Kevin Liffey)