Education and family
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.
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.
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.
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 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
On 24 May 2005 Lafontaine left the SPD. On 10 June, he said he would run as the lead candidate for 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
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
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.
|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oskar Lafontaine.|
- (German) www.Sozialisten.de The German Left Party
- The German Left Party pages in English