Germany’s parliamentary vice-president Thomas Oppermann has died after suddenly collapsing on set while doing television work.
The 66-year-old was on Sunday preparing to appear virtually on live political affairs programme Berlin Direkt, which had already begun broadcasting, when he collapsed at the Max Planck Institute in Gottingen.
Television crew immediately called emergency services, public broadcaster ZDF said, but Mr Oppermann later died in hospital.
No information has been provided as to his cause of death, but ZDF chief Theo Koll said Mr Oppermann appeared “professional and relaxed” during talks before he was due to go live on-air, according to Die Welt.
German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said she was “shocked and saddened” at the death of Mr Oppermann, whose Social Democrat party serves as the junior partner in a coalition government with Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats.
“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.”
Since 2017 Mr Oppermann served as one of five vice-presidents of Germany’s Bundestag, but in August announced he would not seek re-election in next year’s vote.
Norbert Walter-Borjans, co-leader of Mr Oppermann’s SPD, tweeted on Monday his death was a “big shock for all of us”.
“Thomas Oppermann died suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday. We are deeply shaken and grieve with his relatives,” he said.
In a letter to Mr Oppoerman’s wife, Petra Kirchhoff, federal president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: "Our country is losing a strong fighter for democracy, for the rule of law, for progress and justice.”
He added: “He was able to fight politically like few others, but he was also able to find a compromise and enable reconciliation across political camps. He was my companion, advisor and good friend for many years.”