Renzi’s referendum battle wins endorsement by Schaeuble

europeonline Magazine — German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Tuesday he supported Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi‘s constitutional referendum campaign, offering an endorsement that may backfire.

If I could vote, I would vote for him, even though he does not belong to my political family,” said Schaeuble, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s conservative Christian Democrats.

Speaking in Berlin, the German minister said he had great respect for Renzi, who heads Italy‘s centre-left Democratic Party. “I wish him every success,” he said.

However, Schaeuble is an unpopular figure in Italy, because he is seen as a chief supporter of European austerity policies that are blamed for aggravating Italy‘s economic woes, so his remarks may not sway many voters in the intended direction.

“Even Wolfgang Dracula Schaeuble, new member of the ‘yes‘ motley crew, is with Matteo Renzi,” Renato Brunetta of the conservative Forza Italia party wrote on Twitter. “The ‘no‘ campaign is merciful and rejoices,” he added.

Alessandro Di Battista, a leading member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), made similar Twitter comments: “Look who is for the reforms. Schauble, German finance minister and father of austerity, said he would vote ‘yes‘ in the referendum.”

Italians will vote Sunday on amending the constitution to reduce the size and authority of the Senate and, ‘yes‘ campaigners say, make the passage of legislation more streamlined. The ‘no‘ side rejects the changes as weakening democratic checks and balances.

Renzi has pledged to step down if the reforms are not approved, which may trigger a political and economic crisis.

His referendum reform bid has also won the backing of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and outgoing United States President Barack Obama.