The most prominent leader of Germany's hardline opposition Left Party says he is stepping down. Oskar Lafontaine has been key to building the party up into a national force and his departure will raise questions about its future direction.
He said on Saturday that he will give up the party chairmanship "for health reasons." Lafontaine recently underwent surgery for cancer.
The Left Party burst onto the scene in 2005. Lafontaine, a former leader of the center-left Social Democrats, was a central figure in bringing together ex-communists from eastern Germany with western leftists disillusioned by economic reform.
The party opposes welfare-state cuts and advocates a swift German troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.