MHP leader’s 16-day absence from public view leads to speculation about his health

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Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) Leader Devlet Bahceli attends his party's group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) in Ankara, Turkey on October 16, 2018. AFP PHOTOS

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has been out of the public eye for 16 days due to health problems, a situation that has led to widespread speculation about his political future and well being.

Bahçeli, 71, was hospitalized on Sept. 23 due to an upper respiratory infection, according to a statement from his party. Although it has been more than two weeks, Bahçeli, who is reportedly at home recovering, has not made a public appearance. He missed the opening ceremony of the Turkish Parliament on Oct. 1 and did not attend his party’s regular weekly group meeting on Tuesday, either.

Many social media users and some journalists have been speculating about Bahçeli’s health, with some saying that he is critically ill and will not be able to return to politics.

Sabahattin Önkibar, a journalist for the Odatv news website, claimed last week in his column that Bahçeli does not in fact suffer from an upper respiratory infection but has a more serious health problem.

“According to information that leaked from doctors who examined him, he suffers from a heart problem and multiple organ failure,” wrote Önkibar, adding that the MHP leader is at a turning point as to whether he should withdraw from politics.

The journalist even claimed that Bahçeli has decided who his predecessor will be — İstanbul deputy İzzet Ulvi Yönder, who had received a scholarship from Bahçeli during his school days.

However, MHP officials deny the claims about Bahçeli’s condition being critical and say the MHP leader will return to party headquarters in a few days.

Bahçeli, who used to be strong critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), made an unexpected U-turn several years ago and became an ally of Erdoğan. The AKP and MHP ran as election allies in the past several elections.

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