German finance minister denies 'interfering' in Italy vote

'Schaeuble considers political developments positive'

German finance minister denies 'interfering' in Italy vote

Berlin, February 15 - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Friday denied trying to interfere in the outcome of upcoming elections in Italy following earlier statements apparently advising Italians not to vote for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi. "The minister had spoken of the political and economic developments in Italy in recent months, considering them positive," a ministry spokesman said. Schaeuble had also stressed the positive impact of this situation on the markets, he said. On Thursday the German finance minister drew the ire of top brass of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party after telling the weekly Espresso magazine that Italians should not "repeat their former mistake by continuing to vote for (Berlusconi)" in February 24 and 25 polls on grounds that a return to power by the media magnate would considerably weaken Italy and the whole of Europe. He also said the country needed to remain on the path of stability charted by technocrat Premier Mario Monti, who was brought in to replace Berlusconi in November 2011 at the height of the sovereign-debt crisis in the eurozone. "The German minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's declarations show that Germany now openly claims the right to intervene in the choice of the next Italian government, as though Italy were a country with limited sovereignty or an area under German influence," said PdL national coordinator Sandro Bondi. Berlusconi is leading the centre-right election campaign against the centre left led by Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party (PD), the frontrunner before a pre-election blackout of opinion surveys kicked in last week. The two main coalitions are followed by the populist and anti-establishment Five Star Movement of Genoa comedian Beppe Grillo and a coalition of centrist parties on a reform platform led by Monti.

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