Erdoğan refuses to accept minister’s resignation caused by last-minute curfew

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Erdoğan with Soylu (R)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declined to accept a decision by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu to resign due to the controversial way his ministry declared a 48-hour curfew against the COVID-19 pandemic that prompted many to start panic buying, according to a statement from the presidential communications directorate.

Soylu announced his resignation in the wake of growing criticism over his ministry’s declaration on Friday of a 48-hour curfew due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two hours before it went into effect, prompting tens of thousands of Turks to start panic buying.

Soylu announced his resignation from his Twitter account on Sunday evening.

However, a statement from the presidential communications directorate said Erdoğan did not find Soylu’s decision to resign “appropriate,” and so he will continue as head of the ministry.

“A person who occupies a [government] post can hand in their resignation, this is their choice, but the final decision lies with our esteemed President,” said the directorate’s statement.

After the Interior Ministry announced the 48-hour curfew for Turkey’s 31 largest cities on Friday evening, video clips and photos began to be posted on social media showing large groups of people queuing in front of bakeries and supermarkets disregarding the rules of social distancing.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported in Turkey on March 11, and there were 56,956 confirmed cases and 1,198 deaths as of Sunday. For about a month, the Turkish Health Ministry has been calling on people to stay home and implement social distancing to mitigate the pandemic.

Soylu said in a statement posted on Twitter that all the responsibility for the declaration of the weekend curfew, which was aimed at getting the epidemic under control, lay with him.

“The scenes [of people buying in a panic] that emerged at the beginning, though for a limited time, did not fit the [COVID-19 fight] process, which is being perfectly handled,” the minister said, noting that as the person at the helm of the ministry, such scenes should not have been allowed to take place.

Soylu’s remarks came in contradiction to his initial remarks, suggesting that the last-minute curfew was declared upon an order from President Erdoğan and that Erdoğan had managed the entire process.

In his statement the minister said the weekend curfew was a step taken to limit the spread of the epidemic.

“May our blessed nation, which I would never aim to harm, and our president, to whom I will remain loyal until the end of my life, forgive me,” he added.

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