|Mayor of Saarbrücken|
1976 – 9 April 1985
|Preceded by||Fritz Schuster|
|Succeeded by||Hans-Jürgen Koebnick|
|8th Minister-President of Saarland|
9 April 1985 – 10 November 1998
|Preceded by||Werner Zeyer|
|Succeeded by||Reinhard Klimmt|
|Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany|
16 November 1995 – 12 March 1999
|Preceded by||Rudolf Scharping|
|Succeeded by||Gerhard Schröder|
|Federal Minister of Finance|
27 October 1998 – 18 March 1999
|Preceded by||Theodor Waigel|
|Succeeded by||Hans Eichel|
|Co-Chairman of The Left|
16 June 2007 – 15 May 2010
Serving with Lothar Bisky
|Preceded by||New title|
|Succeeded by||Klaus Ernst & Gesine Lötzsch|
16 September 1943 |
|Political party||Social Democratic Party (until 2005)
|Spouse(s)||Ingrid Bachert (1967–1982)
Margret Müller (1982–1988) (1 son)
Christa Müller (1993–) (separated) (1 son)
|Domestic partner||Sahra Wagenknecht (2011–)|
Oskar Lafontaine (German pronunciation: [ˈlafɔntɛn]; born 16 September 1943) is a German politician who served in the government of Germany as Minister of Finance from 1998 to 1999. Previously he was Minister-President of the state of Saarland from 1985 to 1998, and he was also Chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 1995 to 1999.
Beginning in 2007, Lafontaine was co-chairman of The Left. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, he announced his resignation from federal political functions in January 2010, citing health reasons.
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, (Born Katharina Ferner) and twin brother, Hans, in Dillingen.
Lafontaine attended a Catholic episcopal boarding institution in Prüm and there was educated at the Regino-Gymnasium, a public school. 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.
Lafontaine has been married three times and has two sons by his second and third wives. He is currently married to Christa Müller, who leads a campaign against genital mutilation in Africa. The couple is now separated. In November 2011, Lafontaine officially presented fellow politician Sahra Wagenknecht as his new girlfriend, who is 26 years his junior. Lafontaine is a non-practising Roman Catholic.
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 Minister-President 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 and assassination attempt
Lafontaine was the SPD's candidate for Chancellor in the German federal election of 1990. He faced nearly impossible odds. The election had been called two months after the reunification of Germany, and the incumbent government of Helmut Kohl was in a nearly unassailable position. Although he lost, he was able to lead the SPD to a net 46-seat gain.
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 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.
Minister of Finance
During his short tenure as Minister of Finance, Lafontaine was a main bogeyman of UK Eurosceptics. This 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. In 1998, English tabloid "The Sun" called Lafontaine "Europe's most dangerous man". On 11 March 1999, he resigned from all his official and party offices, claiming that "lack of cooperation" in the cabinet had become unbearable. Until the formation of the Left Party he was known for his attacks against the Schroeder government in the tabloid Bild-Zeitung, which is generally considered conservative.
Leaving the SPD/Formation of The Left party
On 24 May 2005 Lafontaine left the SPD. After two weeks of speculation it was announced on 10 June that he would run as the lead candidate for The Left party (Die Linke), 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). Lafontaine 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. Moreover he also unsuccessfully contested the Saarbrücken constituency, which he had previously represented from 1990 to 2002. Nevertheless, the result of the Left party 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."
An article by Lafontaine on Erich Honecker, state and party leader of the German Democratic Republic and a fellow Saarlander, in the magazine Der Spiegel was criticised as laudatory by many observers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s 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.
Lafontaine lives in a manor-like house, commonly known as the "palace of social justice" (Palast der sozialen Gerechtigkeit). When asked about whether this could be in conflict with his socialist ideas, Lafontaine said politicians of the Left don't have to be poor, but they have to fight against poverty.
- "Rückzug als Linken-Chef". Spiegel Online (in German). 23 January 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
- Lafontaine und Wagenknecht – Linke Liebe. sueddeutsche.de, 12 November 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
- Deutscher Bundestag: Lafontaine, Oskar
- FT.com / Europe – New leftwing alliance to challenge SPD
- Interview with Left Party Leader Oskar Lafontaine: 'We Want to Overthrow Capitalism' – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International
- Linkspartei: Der Charmeur und der Chef – Bücher – Feuilleton – FAZ.NET
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oskar Lafontaine.|
- (German) www.die-linke.de – The German Left Party
- (German) Oskar Lafontaine Information on the website of the parliamentary group Die Linke
- Will Germany Go Left of the Left? by Markus Deggerich, Der Spiegel, 25 September 2009
|Mayor of Saarbrücken
Hans-Jürgen Koebnick (SPD)
Werner Zeyer (CDU)
|Minister-President of Saarland
Reinhard Klimmt (SPD)
Theodor Waigel (CSU)
|German Minister of Finance
Hans Eichel (SPD)
|Party political offices|
|Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
|Co-Chairman of the Left Party
With Lothar Bisky
Klaus Ernst & Gesine Lötzsch