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Left party illness

November 18, 2009

Just over a month after the chairman of the Left party, Oskar Lafontaine, began to withdraw from national political life, he's announced that he will undergo treatment for cancer this week.

Oskar Lafontaine
Lafontaine says he will decide his political future in the new yearImage: AP

Oskar Lafontaine surprised the German political world last month by resigning his role as co-leader of the Left party's parliamentary group in the Bundestag. He said he would focus more on state politics in Saarland, where his party had achieved over 21 percent in the recent election.

Now, the 66-year-old Lafontaine has made another shocking revelation with the announcement that he will undergo cancer related surgery on Thursday.

But he said he would speak in an important debate in the Saarland parliament on Wednesday.

In a written statement, Lafontaine announced he would be taking a break from politics after the long-planned surgery.

"Depending on my state of health and on the medical prognoses I'll decide in the new year how I might be able to carry on my political work," he said.

The statement did not indicate what kind of cancer Lafontaine has.

The announcement about Lafontaine's illness follows an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel claiming the politician was involved in an extramarital affair with the 26-years-younger Sahra Wagenknecht, who's on the very far left of the party. The article asserted this was the reason for his sudden departure from Berlin.

Editor: Michael Lawton