Johannes Rau, German politician, Died at 75


Johannes Rau died on the 27th of January 2006 at the age of 75,he was a German politician of the SPD.  Born in the Barmen part of Wuppertal, Rhine Province on the 16th 0f January 1931, as the third of five children.
His family was strongly Protestant. As a schoolboy, Rau was active in the Confessing Church, a circle of the German Protestant Church which actively resisted Nazism.
In 1958, the pacifist Rau and his political mentor, Gustav Heinemann, joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), where he was active in the Wuppertal chapter.
He served as deputy chairman of the SPD party of Wuppertal, and was elected later on to the City Council (1964–1978), where he served as chairman of the SPD Group (1964–1967) and later as Mayor (1969–1970).
The party nominated Rau to be its chancellor candidate for the 1987 election, but it lost the election, as it had in 1983, to the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), headed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Although Rau, a populist and folksy leader, was popular in his home state and among trade union members, whose backing the party needed, he could not gain enough support among the increasing number of “floating” voters, many of whom were civil servants and salaried employees.
The party also could not recapture support from dissatisfied voters on the left who had voted for the environmentalist Green Party.
Rau supported environmental protection but was a staunch opponent of the Greens, considered to be too radical.
Thus, he opposed any national coalition with them should the two parties have enough parliamentary seats to form a government.
In 1977, Rau became Chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalia SPD, and in 1978 Minister President of the state, where he remained until 1998, with four successful elections for the SPD, which became strongest party in the Landtag each time and gained an absolute majority three times, in 1980, 1985, 1990 and finally 1995.
From 1995 onwards, Rau led an SPD-Greens coalition in NRW. Rau twice served as President of the Bundesrat in 1982/83 and 1994/95, and thus deputised for the Federal President.
In 1998 Rau stepped down from his positions as SPD Chairman and Minister President, and on 23 May 1999, was elected Federal President by the Federal Assembly of Germany to succeed Roman Herzog (CDU).
On 1 July 2004, he was succeeded by Horst Köhler. As all Federal Presidents but his mentor Heinemann, who had not wished to be seen off in this manner, Rau was honored by a Großer Zapfenstreich which on his wish included the hymn “Jesus bleibet meine Freude” (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring).