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Erdoğan cancels election rallies after developing stomach bug

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, addresses the crowd at Ankara Sports Hall during the unveiling of his party’s election manifesto in Ankara, Turkey on April 11, 2023. Polls show him running neck-and-neck or losing to the secular Republican People's Party (CHP) leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in Turkey's presidential election in May. Adem ALTAN / AFP

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday cancelled his planned appearances due to a stomach bug, clearing Thursday’s calendar a few hours later, less than three weeks before Turkey’s crunch election, Agence France-Presse reported.

The 69-year-old leader’s announcement came in the heat of a hard-fought campaign in what is widely viewed as Turkey’s most important election of its post-Ottoman era.

Erdoğan had three appearances in the central Anatolian provinces planned for Wednesday.

But he said Vice President Fuat Oktay would take his place instead.

“Today I will rest at home under the advice of our doctors,” Erdoğan said on his official Twitter account.

“With God’s permission, we will continue our program from tomorrow,” he said.

“On this occasion, I wish all my citizens health, peace and enjoyment.”

Hours later, Erkan Kandemir, vice-president of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) announced that Erdoğan had also cancelled his program for Thursday. He had been due to inaugurate Turkey’s first nuclear power station, at Akkuyu on the southern coast.

The Russian-built plant’s launch was due to be one of the main events of Erdoğan’s campaign schedule this week.

Erdoğan has been campaigning tirelessly to reverse a dip in polls and extend his two-decade election-winning streak.

He is running neck-and-neck with secular opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and must contend with the dual blows of a raging economic crisis and the impact of a massive February earthquake that claimed more than 50,000 lives.

But he cut short a live television interview late on Tuesday after getting sick on air.

‘Oh wow’

His television appearance on Tuesday began more than 90 minutes behind schedule and then went to a commercial break in the middle of a question 10 minutes into the show.

The camera shook and the reporter asking the question stood up from his chair when the broadcast cut off.

“Oh wow,” an unidentified voice could be heard saying off camera.

Erdoğan returned about 15 minutes later to apologize for getting sick.

“Yesterday and today were hard work. That’s why I got a stomach flu,” Erdoğan said.

“At one point, I wondered if it would be misunderstood if we cancelled the program. But we promised. I ask for your and our audience’s forgiveness.”

The Turkish leader looked ashen and ended the program a few minutes later.

Erdoğan had gastrointestinal in surgery in 2012 but has otherwise enjoyed robust health.

Turkey’s 74-year-old opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu was among the first of many politicians to wish Erdoğan a swift recovery on Tuesday.

“I convey my best wishes to Mr. Erdoğan,” Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted moments after the episode aired.

Nationalist leader Meral Akşener and other top members of Kılıçdaroğlu’s six-party opposition alliances also tweeted their support.

Erdoğan was due to oversee the inauguration of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant on the southern coast on Thursday.

The Russian-built plant’s launch was due to be one of the main events of Erdoğan’s campaign schedule this week.

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