German Finance Minister Lafontaine resigns unexpectedly
March 11, 1999
BONN, Germany (CNN) -- German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine resigned on Thursday, a government spokesman said in a surprise announcement.
Lafontaine also stepped down as chairman of the Social Democratic Party, which swept to power in elections in September in coalition with the Greens Party.
The resignation came shortly after German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, also a Social Democrat, warned left-wing ministers in his coalition government not to overburden German business.
That warning was clearly also addressed at Lafontaine, who has been widely criticized -- also outside Germany -- for his policies and the impact on the European Union's single currency, the euro.
Lafontaine, for instance, had proposed heavy new taxes on nuclear utilities -- a move that prompted strong criticism from Germany's nuclear lobby as well as Schroeder, who called it a "strategic error."
Although Schroeder's personal popularity rating remains high, his coalition has dropped to 38 percent -- its lowest level of support since September's general election.
A sluggish economy and an unemployment rate that is relatively high for Germany and which has refused to budge are seen as key reasons for the criticism of the government.
Reuters contributed to this report..
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