The leader of the Social Democrat parliamentary group, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is temporarily quitting politics in order to donate one of his kidneys to his sick wife.
Steinmeier hopes to return to politics in October
Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday announced he would step back from his political duties for a few weeks in order to donate one of his kidneys to his wife.
"You will surely understand, therefore, that I will not be active on the political scene for a few weeks," Steinmeier told reporters at an impromptu press conference in Berlin.
Steinmeier said his wife, Elke Buedenbender, had suffered from severe kidney problems for years, but added that her condition has deteriorated dramatically in recent weeks. The pair married in 1995 and have had one daughter together.
Steinmeier currently leads the parliamentary group of the opposition Social Democrats. He was Germany's foreign minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel's 2005-2009 coalition government, and lost to Merkel in a bid to become chancellor last year.
Steinmeier's deputy, Joachim Poss will temporarily take over his duties, in a move already approved by Social Democrat chairman, Sigmar Gabriel.
Steinmeier also said he was confident he would resume his political career without any reduction in workload once the operation was complete, speculating that he might return in October.
The veteran politician also asked reporters to respect his privacy and that of his 48-year-old wife, pledging to make another public announcement at the next convenient juncture.
Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/apn/dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold