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Time Out from Politics: Opposition Leader Steinmeier to Donate Kidney to His Wife

With his wife suffering from a severe illness, Social Democratic floor leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced on Monday that he was taking a leave of absence. He hopes that, by donating a kidney, he can save his wife's life.

SPD floor leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier has taken time off politics to donate a kidney to his severely ill wife, Elke Büdenbender. Zoom

SPD floor leader Frank-Walter Steinmeier has taken time off politics to donate a kidney to his severely ill wife, Elke Büdenbender.

In 2009, Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier spent the year battling Angela Merkel in an attempt to be elected chancellor in her stead. This year, he is faced with a task of much greater consequence: that of trying to save his wife's life.

In a hastily called Monday morning press conference, Steinmeier, who is now the SPD's floor leader in the opposition, announced that he was taking a time out from politics so that he could donate a kidney to his wife, Elke Büdenbender.

"My wife is seriously ill," Steinmeier told gathered journalists in Berlin. "Only an organ transplant can help her." He then added that, because waiting lists for kidneys are too long, and that preliminary tests had shown compatibility, he himself would be the donor.

Steinmeier said that his wife's illness, which he declined to identify, had taken a turn for the worse and that his leave was effective immediately. The transplant is likely to take place later this week.

'Sad and Concerned'

Steinmeier served as German foreign minister from 2005 to 2009 as part of Merkel's coalition with the SPD. In general elections last September, he led the party to a poor showing of just 23 percent. It was seen as unlikely that he would be his party's chancellor candidate again in general elections in 2013.

Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Monday that she had spoken with Steinmeier shortly after the announcement. "The news that his wife is seriously ill has made the chancellor sad and concerned," Seibert said. Current Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that he wishes Steinmeier "and his entire family all the best and especially the strength to get through these difficult times."

Steinmeier plans to return to the political stage in October. In the interim, his duties as SPD floor leader will be performed by deputy SPD floor leader Joachim Poss.

cgh -- with wire reports


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