Lafontaine quits Schröder's SPD over its 'anti-socialist' policies

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The Independent Online

Oskar Lafontaine, Germany's champion of the "old left", resigned from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats as the party immersed itself in bitter infighting following its defeat by conservatives in a state election on Sunday.

Oskar Lafontaine, Germany's champion of the "old left", resigned from Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrats as the party immersed itself in bitter infighting following its defeat by conservatives in a state election on Sunday.

Mr Lafontaine, the controversial former Social Democrat leader, credited with bringing Mr Schröder to power in 1998, said he was quitting the party after 39 years because of the SPD's "anti-socialist" policies.

"I have always said that I would leave the party if it pursued its current reform agenda during the forthcoming election," Mr Lafontaine said. Klaus Benneter, The SPD's general secretary, was reported to have told Mr Lafontaine: "Stop your vain banter Oskar. Stop damaging the party. Be honest and go!"

The veteran Social Democrat, once called "The most dangerous man in Europe," by The Sun newspaper, briefly served as finance minister under Mr Schröder before being forced to resign in 1999 following major policy differences with the Chancellor. Since then he has criticised the party from the sidelines.

He said he was considering running as a candidate for a new left-wing alliance of former SPD dissidents and the reformed communists, the Party for Democratic Socialism, in this autumn's general election.Like Mr Lafontaine, many grassroots members of the SPD have strongly opposed the party's reform agenda.

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