Oskar Lafontaine

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Oskar Lafontaine
Mayor of Saarbrücken
In office
1976–1985
Preceded by Fritz Schuster
Succeeded by Hans-Jürgen Koebnick
Minister President of the Saarland
In office
1985–1998
Preceded by Werner Zeyer
Succeeded by Reinhard Klimmt
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
In office
1995–1999
Preceded by Rudolf Scharping
Succeeded by Gerhard Schröder
German Minister of Finance
In office
1998–1999
Preceded by Theodor Waigel
Succeeded by Hans Eichel
Chairman of the The Left
Incumbent
Assumed office
16 June 2007
Personal details
Born 16 September 1943 (1943-09-16) (age 71)
Saarlouis-Roden, Germany
Nationality German Germany
Political party The Left
Religion Roman Catholic

Oskar Lafontaine (IPA: [ˈlafɔntɛn]; born 16 September 1943 in Saarlouis-Roden) is a left-wing German politician and a founder member of the new political party Die Linke.

Education and family[change | change source]

Lafontaine studied physics at the Bonn University and the Saarland University from 1962 to 1969.

He is Roman Catholic and is married to Christa Müller who leads a campaign against genital mutilation in Africa. They have a son, Carl Maurice, born 1997.[1]

Career[change | change source]

Political rise[change | change source]

Lafontaine's political career began locally as mayor of Saarbrücken. He became widely known as a critic of chancellor Helmut Schmidt's support for the NATO plan to put Pershing II missiles in Germany. From 1985 to 1998 he was Minister-President of the Saarland. As minister-president, Lafontaine tried to keep the traditional industries of steel production and coal mining in the state with subsidies. He was also President of the Bundesrat in 1992/93.

Chancellor candidacy[change | change source]

In the German federal election of 1990, Lafonntaine was the SPD's Chancellor candidate. The party lost because of support for the CDU who were the government during reunification. During the campaign he was attacked with a knife by a mentally deranged woman after a speech in Cologne. His carotid artery was slashed and he remained in a critical condition for several days.

Political comeback[change | change source]

At the "Mannheim convention" in 1995, Lafontaine was elected chairman of the SPD, replacing Rudolf Scharping. He was mainly responsible for bringing the whole of the SPD against Helmut Kohl and his CDU party, instead of cooperating with the CDU. Lafontaine said that any help given to Kohl would only help to keep the CDU in government.

This idea put the SPD ahead in the opinion polls in September 1998. He was appointed Federal Minister of Finance in the first government of Gerhard Schröder.

Minister of Finance[change | change source]

During his short time as Minister of Finance, Lafontaine was a figure of attack by UK Eurosceptics. This was especially because he wanted to make taxes the same in the European Union. This would have meant some UK taxes would increase.

On 11 March 1999, he resigned from all his official and party offices, saying that not getting any help from other members of the cabinet. Later he become known for his attacks against Angela Merkel's government in the tabloid Bild-Zeitung which is generally considered conservative.

The Left Party[change | change source]

On 24 May 2005 Lafontaine left the SPD. On 10 June, he said he would run as the lead candidate for the The Left Party.PDS (Die Linkspartei), a coalition of the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG), which is based in western Germany, and the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), which was the successor to the East German communist party[2]

He joined the WASG on 18 June 2005 and was selected to head their list for the 2005 Federal Election in North Rhine-Westphalia on the same day. He also stood in the Saarbrücken constituency, but lost. Nevertheless, the result of the Linkspartei in the Saarland was the best in any of the federal states in the West of Germany.

Criticisms of Lafontaine[change | change source]

An article by Lafontaine on Erich Honecker, state and party leader of the GDR and a Saarländer like him, in the magazine Der Spiegel was criticized by many people who said it concentrated on a few good things Honecker did, and ignored the bad things. In the late 80s and early 90s he lost some support from left-wing people because he seemed to want pro-business policies and he called for a reduction of the influx of Germans from Eastern Europe and asylum-seekers.

Other websites[change | change source]

Books[change | change source]

Oskar LaFontaine: The Heart Beats on the Left Polity, ISBN 978-0-7456-2582-9

References[change | change source]

Preceded by
Fritz Schuster
Mayor of Saarbrücken
1976 – 1985
Succeeded by
Hans-Jürgen Koebnick (SPD)
Preceded by
Rudolf Scharping
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
1995 – 1999
Succeeded by
Gerhard Schröder
Preceded by
Werner Zeyer (CDU)
Minister president of Saarland
1985 – 1998
Succeeded by
Reinhard Klimmt (SPD)
Preceded by
Theodor Waigel (CSU)
German Minister of Finance
1998 – 1999
Succeeded by
Hans Eichel (SPD)
Preceded by
Roland Claus
chairman of the parliamentary group Left Party
2005 – present
Succeeded by
Incumbent