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Schroeder faces job reform test

Schroeder putting his own and his government's survival at stake over economic reforms.
Schroeder putting his own and his government's survival at stake over economic reforms.

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BERLIN, Germany -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is to hold a test vote within his party on his controversial welfare reforms ahead of a crucial parliamentary ballot at the end of the week.

The vote on Monday within his Social Democratic Party is to cover the planned reforms that would cut benefits for the unemployed and force them to accept jobs.

Schroeder says the reforms, which are part of his "2010 Agenda," are aimed at stimulating a stagnating economy. Other measures being pushed through are health care, pension and employment reform.

The jobs vote will go before the Budestag lower house of parliament Friday.

The chancellor is staking his government's survival as well as his own career on the reforms going through. He has threatened to resign if his SPD-Greens coalition does not back him.

Schroeder is expected to win's Monday vote, despite six members having threatened to derail plans to force the unemployed to accept jobs offered to them.

The SPD's parliamentary floor leader Franz Muentefering indicated on public television Sunday that the party was ready to discuss some controversial issues, including the provisions obliging the unemployed to take low--paid jobs, Reuters reported.

But Schroeder's coalition could face a tougher fight in the Bundestag where the SPD-Greens hold just a nine-seat majority over the combined opposition. The ruling coalition is in a minority in the upper house.

But the opposition has backed other reforms introduced by Schroeder -- helping push through health care reforms which require workers to contribute more towards cover.

Schroeder argues these reforms are necessary because of a burgeoning aging population. The bill attracted 517 of the possible 574 votes last month.

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