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Ailing Erdoğan delays video speech at nuclear plant event

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan postponed a video appearance at an event on Thursday after he fell ill during a live TV interview earlier this week, Bloomberg reported.

Erdoğan was set to attend an event for a nuclear plant by broadcast at 1.30 p.m. local time on Thursday. He will now appear via video at 4 p.m., according to a statement from the presidency. It gave no further details.

Erdoğan, who is facing his toughest election race since taking power in 2003, has remained out of public view since a TV interview late Tuesday during which he was suddenly taken ill with what he described as an upset stomach.

The Turkish president had already canceled his visit to the $20 billion Akkuyu power plant project on Thursday over health concerns. The plant is being built by Russia in Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Mersin. Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to also attend by video link.

Erdoğan’s been on the campaign trail ahead of elections where he’ll face an alliance of six opposition parties joining forces to unseat him.

He’s expected to use the nuclear power plant ceremony to bolster support among voters who back the Turkish leader’s “strongman” image and close ties with the Kremlin ruler. He abandoned a plan to visit Mersin for the event on the advice of doctors, an official with direct knowledge said, asking not to be identified.

Family Minister Derya Yanık told Turkish television on Thursday that Erdoğan was on the mend, according to Agence France-Presse.

“There is nothing to worry about. He is well,” she said. “He will resume his intense program tomorrow, I think.”

‘Disinformation’

But the health scare has upturned Erdoğan’s travel schedule and complicated his path to a third decade of rule.

Erdoğan is known for his love of campaigning and embrace of political fights.

Polls show him running neck-and-neck or losing against opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in Turkey’s most momentous election in decades — if not its entire post-Ottoman history.

His Islamic-rooted party’s control of parliament through an alliance with a far-right group is also under threat.

Erdoğan had used his campaign speeches to launch venomous barbs at the opposition and portray himself as a man who gets the job done.

That image has been shaken — and his office is fighting back.

The president’s powerful media director Fahrettin Altun posted screen shots on Twitter of Chinese state media and some popular accounts speculating about Erdoğan’s condition being more serious than officially reported.

“We categorically reject such baseless claims regarding President Erdoğan’s health,” Altun wrote.

“No amount of disinformation can dispute the fact that the Turkish people stand with their leader and Erdoğan and his AK Party are set to win the May 14 elections.”

Guarded secret

Rumors about Erdoğan’s health have been swirling since he underwent two gastrointestinal surgeries in 2011 and 2012.

The operations went well but left him with a slight hitch in his gait that appears to have fed some of the social media speculation.

Turkey does not publicize the results of its leaders’ health evaluations and makes it illegal to “insult the president.”

Thousands of people have been prosecuted for the offence — punishable by either a fine or a jail term of up to four years.

Turkey’s main opposition leaders all quickly tweeted messages wishing Erdoğan a speedy quick recovery.

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