Lafontaine, Oskar

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lafontaine, Oskar

Oskar Lafontaine, 1943–, German politician. He rose through the Social Democrat Party (SPD) and electoral ranks in the Saar, becoming SPD regional chairman in 1977 and premier of the Saar in 1985. A leader of his party's "peace faction" in the early 1980s, he denounced Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's nuclear policy, calling for withdrawal from NATO. He was seen as the party's "conceptual pioneer," who would redefine its policies on unemployment and the environment. He opposed the German reunification agreement negotiated by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, but lost support within the SPD; he was defeated in the Dec., 1990, election, having survived an assassination attempt in April. In 1995 he became national chairman of the SPD. Returned to parliament, he became (1998) finance minister in the government of Gerhard Schröder, but clashes over policy caused him to resign the ministry, his SPD leadership, and his parliamentary seat in Mar., 1999. In 2005 he joined with left-wing SPD dissidents, former Communists, and others in forming the socialist Left party.

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