Leading Social Democrat (SPD) politician and Bundestag Vice President Thomas Oppermann has died, German media reported on Monday. He was 66.
Oppermann collapsed on Sunday evening while doing television work for ZDF. The public broadcaster confirmed his death Monday, saying he had been taking to the hospital after falling ill.
Oppermann launched his political career in 1980. He first became a lawmaker at state level in Lower Saxony in 1990, and went on to serve as science minister. He moved to the national stage in 2005, where he represented the constituency of Göttingen. He had held the post of Bundestag vice president since 2017.
From 2013 to 2017 he served as the parliamentary party leader for the center-left SPD in the Bundestag.
SPD co-leader Norbert Walter-Borjans called the news of Oppermann’s death “a tough shock for us all” in a post on Twitter.
“Thomas Oppermann died suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday,” Walter-Borjans wrote. “We are deeply shocked and grieve with his relatives.”
Labor Minister and fellow SPD lawmaker Hubertus Heil mourned Oppermann’s “sudden” death.
“The news of the sudden death of my colleague and comrade Thomas Opperman fills me with deep sadness,” Heil wrote on Twitter. “With passion and intellect, Thomas has done a great service to our country and social democracy. My thoughts are with his family.”
Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is the SPD’s candidate for chancellor in next year’s national elections, called Oppermann’s death a “shock for us all.”
“The country is losing an accomplished politician, the Bundestag an outstanding vice president and the SPD a passionate and fierce comrade,” Scholz wrote on Twitter. “We are all losing a friend — and are sad.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, which serves in a coalition government with the SPD, said she was “shocked and saddened by the untimely death of Thomas Oppermann.”
“I have valued him for many years as a dependable and fair partner in the grand coalition,” she said in a statement. “As vice president of the German Bundestag, he did an outstanding service to our parliament in turbulent times.”
Oppermann had announced in August that he would not seek reelection to the Bundestag in next year’s vote.
“After 30 years as a delegate in the Lower Saxony state parliament and in the German Bundestag it’s now the right time for me to do something different again and take on new projects,” he said at the time.
In a statement on Twitter, the SPD’s parliamentary party said: “We mourn Thomas Oppermann, Bundestag vice president, member of our party and former parliamentary party leader. Our thoughts are with his family.”
dr/rt (AFP, dpa, KNA, epd)