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Steinbrück gaffe angers Italy

February 28, 2013

In Germany, the main opposition SPD's candidate for chancellor in the autumn elections has come under fire for comments he made about the results of Italy's parlimentary vote. He said he was "downright appalled that two 'clowns' had won."


Italian President Giorgio Napolitano canceled a dinner with Social Democrat chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück on Tuesday evening after the German politician expressed his dismay at the outcome of Italy's general elections.

Speaking at an SPD event on Tuesday evening, Steinbrück called both Italian frontrunners, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the comedian Beppe Grillo, "clowns." Berlusconi was a "clown with a particular boost of testosterone," he added.

Berlusconi's conservative coalition won 29.2 percent of the vote in the lower house; Grillo's protest party, Five Star Movement (M5S), took 25 percent. The results caused Italian stocks and government bonds to falling, renewing concerns among EU leaders about the stability of Italy's fragile economy.

The comments were criticized by both the SPD and Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats as undiplomatic and a sign of possible future gaffes if Steinbrück were to become head of the German government.

The political misstep came ahead of Napolitano's meetings with German President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday.

kms/rg (AFP, dpa)