Oskar Lafontaine: Wikis

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Oskar Lafontaine


Mayor of Saarbrücken
In office
1976 – 1985
Preceded by Fritz Schuster
Succeeded by Hans-Jürgen Koebnick

In office
1985 – 1998
Preceded by Werner Zeyer
Succeeded by Reinhard Klimmt

In office
1995 – 1999
Preceded by Rudolf Scharping
Succeeded by Gerhard Schröder

In office
1998 – 1999
Preceded by Theodor Waigel
Succeeded by Hans Eichel

Chairman of the The Left
Incumbent
Assumed office 
June 16, 2007

Born September 16, 1943 (1943-09-16) (age 66)
Saarlouis-Roden, Germany
Nationality German
Political party The Left
Religion Roman Catholic

Oskar Lafontaine (German pronunciation: [ˈlafɔntɛn]; born September 16, 1943, Saarlouis) is a German politician, former German finance minister, former chairman of the Social Democratic Party and former prime minister of the state of Saarland. Currently he is co-chairman of The Left.

Contents

Family and education

Lafontaine was born in Saarlouis into a family of craftsmen. His father, Hans Lafontaine, was a professional baker and was killed serving in World War II. He spent his childhood living with his mother, Catherine, and twin brother, Hans, in Dillingen.

Lafontaine was educated at the Regino-Gymnasium, a Catholic boarding school in Prüm. He left school in 1962 and received a scholarship from Cusanuswerk, the scholarship body of the Catholic church in Germany, to study physics at the universities of Bonn and Saarland. Lafontaine graduated in 1969; his thesis concerned the production of barium titanate crystals. He worked for Versorgungs- und Verkehrsgesellschaft Saarbrücken until 1974, serving on its board from 1971.

He is currently married to his third wife, Christa Müller, who leads a campaign against genital mutilation in Africa. The couple have two sons. Lafontaine is a Roman Catholic.[1]

Political rise

Lafontaine rose to prominence locally as mayor of Saarbrücken and became more widely known as a critic of chancellor Helmut Schmidt's support for the NATO plan to deploy Pershing II missiles in Germany. From 1985 to 1998 he served as prime minister of the Saarland. In this position he struggled to preserve the industrial base of the state, which was based on steel production and coal mining with subsidies, and served as President of the Bundesrat in 1992/93.

Chancellor candidacy

Lafontaine election poster, 1990

Lafontaine was the SPD's candidate for Chancellor in the German federal election of 1990 following the reunification of Germany. 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

At the "Mannheim convention" in 1995, he was elected chairman of the SPD in a surprise move, replacing Rudolf Scharping. He was mainly responsible for bringing the whole political weight of the SPD to bear against Helmut Kohl and his CDU party, rejecting bipartisan cooperation that had characterized German politics for many years. Lafontaine argued that any help given to Kohl would only lengthen his unavoidable demise.

After this strategy gave the SPD an unexpectedly clear victory at the polls in September 1998, he was appointed Federal Minister of Finance in the first government of Gerhard Schröder.

Minister of Finance

During his short tenure as Minister of Finance, Lafontaine was a main bogeyman of UK Eurosceptics. The was because, among other things, he had called for the prompt tax harmonisation of the European Union, which would have resulted in an increase in UK taxes. On March 11, 1999, he resigned from all his official and party offices, claiming that "lack of cooperation" in the cabinet had become unbearable. More recently he has become known for his attacks against the current German government in the tabloid Bild-Zeitung which is generally considered conservative.

Leaving the SPD/Formation of The Left party

On May 24, 2005 Lafontaine left the SPD. After two weeks of speculation it was announced on June 10 that he would run as the lead candidate for The Left party (Die Linkspartei), a coalition of the Labor and Social Justice Party (WASG), which is based in western Germany, and the Left Party.PDS, which was the successor to the ruling East German Socialist Unity Party (SED).[2] Lafontaine joined the WASG on June 18, 2005 and was selected to head their list for the 2005 Federal Election in North Rhine-Westphalia on the same day. Moreover he also unsuccessfully contested the Saarbrücken constituency. Nevertheless, the result of the Linkspartei in the Saarland was by far the best in any of the federal states in the West of Germany.

In 2007, when the Left Party was formed in a merger between 'Left Party.PDS' and WASG, he became chairman alongside Lothar Bisky.

In May 2009, he declared that "Financial capitalism has failed. We need to democratize the economy. The workforce needs to have a far greater say in their companies than has been the case so far."[3]

Criticism

An article by Lafontaine on Erich Honecker, state and party leader of the German Democratic Republic and a fellow Saarländer, in the magazine Der Spiegel was criticised as laudatory by many observers. In the late 1980s and early 90s he tarnished his left-wing credentials with a plea for pro-business policies and a call for the reduction of the influx of Germans from Eastern Europe and asylum-seekers.

In contrast to his public socialist political ideology, Lafontaine lives in a manor-like house, commonly known as the "palace of social justice" (Palast der sozialen Gerechtigkeit).[4] However, when asked about it, Lafontaine said politicians of the Left don't have to be poor, but they have to fight against poverty.[5]

References

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Fritz Schuster
Mayor of Saarbrücken
1976 – 1985
Succeeded by
Hans-Jürgen Koebnick (SPD)
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)
Party political offices
Preceded by
Rudolf Scharping
Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
1995 – 1999
Succeeded by
Gerhard Schröder
Preceded by
Roland Claus
chairman of the parliamentary group Left Party
2005 – present
Succeeded by
Incumbent
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Simple English

Oskar Lafontaine
File:Oskar


Mayor of Saarbrücken
In office
1976 – 1985
Preceded by Fritz Schuster
Succeeded by Hans-Jürgen Koebnick

In office
1985 – 1998
Preceded by Werner Zeyer
Succeeded by Reinhard Klimmt

In office
1995 – 1999
Preceded by Rudolf Scharping
Succeeded by Gerhard Schröder

In office
1998 – 1999
Preceded by Theodor Waigel
Succeeded by Hans Eichel

Chairman of the The Left
Incumbent
Assumed office 
June 16, 2007

Born September 16, 1943 (1943-09-16) (age 67)
Saarlouis-Roden,
Nationality German
Political party The Left
Religion Roman Catholic

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

Contents

Education and family

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 mutiliation in Africa. They have a son, Carl Maurice, born 1997. [1]

Career

Political rise

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

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

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

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 March 11, 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

On May 24, 2005 Lafontaine left the SPD. On June 10, 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 June 18, 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

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

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Wikimedia Commons has images, video, and/or sound related to:

Books

Oskar LaFontaine: The Heart Beats on the Left Polity, ISBN 0745625827

References

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

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