Turkey’s Erdogan cancels campaign travel after health scare

The health of President Recep T. Tayyip Erdoan has raised alarm with only 17 days until the election. He cancelled his campaign travel on two consecutive days, including an earlier planned trip to Mersin for a high-profile ceremony.

The cancellation follows a health scare the Turkish leader experienced during a live TV interview on Tuesday evening.

Erdogan posted on Twitter on Wednesday that he would rest at home today, as per the doctors’ advice.

Officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party, (AKP), announced that Erdogan will attend the ceremony by video link instead of personally as originally planned.

Ad

Erdogan, who is attempting to enter his third decade of power, appeared to be sick during a joint broadcast by the government-friendly Kanal 7 and Ulke TV on April 25, 2008.

The interview was watched by thousands of people who saw Ulke TV editor-in chief Hasan Ozturk stop mid-question and rise in alarm. A voice heard off camera then exclaimed “God Help Us” before the ad break. The president was not being filmed, so many Turks speculated on social media that Erdogan might have had an epileptic or heart attack.

Erdogan, grimacing, returned to the interview after 20 minutes. He played down the health scare, calling it a minor discomfort brought on by the hectic campaigning. He said that the stomach bug was serious and he came to the interview late at night against his doctor’s recommendation. He thanked all those who sent him well wishes and ended the interview 10 minutes later.

Erdogan’s health is a major issue. It has been since 2006 when Erdogan, the then-prime minister, was unconscious and rushed to a hospital, causing rumors about him having epilepsy, diabetes, or both. After surgery on his lower intestinal tract in 2011, local journalists and analysts claimed that he was suffering from advanced colon cancer. They even speculated that he only had two years left to live. Two years ago, social media erupted with rumors about the president’s demise when he failed to attend a climate conference in Glasgow for three days.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu was the first person to wish Erdogan well after the televised scare. He will be his opponent in the first round presidential elections on May 14, and according to the majority of polls in a decisive run-off two weeks later. A poll conducted by Al-Monitor/Premise on Wednesday showed that Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu were statistically tied for a runoff. However, there are still many undecided votes.

The opposition candidate, along with other members of the alliance, tweeted their well wishes to Erdogan after the incident. Temel Karamollaoglu of the Welfare Party tweeted: “May Erdogan recover soon and may we continue [the electoral process] in good health and peace.”

Bulent Turan said on CNN-TURK that “Kilicdaroglu’s well-wishes” are valuable. Politics is, by definition a polemic. “But humanity and courtesy is important.”

The president’s office announced Erdogan’s program of celebrations in three cities on Wednesday morning. But at noon, the president tweeted that he would be “resting” that day, and Vice President Fuat OKtay will attend in his place.

Officials stated that the president wanted be in top form for the ceremony the following day at Turkey’s 1st nuclear power plant. Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear energy company, is building the facility. Erdogan invited Russian President Vladimir Putin, but he will not attend in person. He will instead address the ceremony by videoconference. Sources said that Erdogan would also be doing so late Wednesday night.

The first fuel shipment will arrive at Akkuyu on April 27. This is the first nuclear power station in Turkey, located in the province of Mersin. The plant was not damaged by the deadly earthquake in southern Turkey that killed over 50,000 people and devastated 11 provinces.

Construction work is ongoing at the site, as it has been for many of Erdogan’s other openings in this month. Once the fuel arrives however, the testing and other preparations for the first of the four reactors will begin. Anadolu reports that the remaining three reactors will be operational one unit per year after this. When the plant is fully operational, it will produce 35 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year and provide about 10% of Turkey’s energy consumption.

Erdogan tweeted: “God willing we will continue tomorrow our program and ensure that Turkey achieves its goals for the coming Century of Turkey.”

Erdogan’s health is a topic of debate

Erdogan’s health is a topic of discussion in Turkey, despite his general indifference. This has been the case since he was prime minister. Journalists and foreign analysts have speculated whether Erdogan had cancer, diabetes or epilepsy. In 2006, Erdogan had to be rushed unconscious into a hospital. The prime minister may have preferred to keep this visit secret, but it was made public when his bodyguards and driver jumped out and slammed doors while the ignition key was still in the car, activating an automatic locking system. Erdogan was unconscious when his bodyguards broke the window of an armored vehicle. They were helped by construction workers who had brought a sledgehammer, and a small chisel. Doctors claimed that he was suffering from a low blood sugar due to exhaustion, and the fasting of Ramadan.

Local journalists and international columns claimed that Erdogan had advanced cancer when he underwent surgery to remove his lower intestines. A few months later, the Turkish paper Taraf published a correspondence between two colleagues from US-based Stratfor which offers geopolitical analyses. They claimed that doctors had removed a portion of Erdogan’s intestines measuring 20 centimeters (8 inches).

The prognosis, however, is not good. “The surgeon said that they were estimating him two years,” read the email. Erdogan, as rumors spread, refused to comment on his specific health but attacked the report for being false. In an angry speech, Erdogan told his party that only God knows the exact length of each person’s life. When the time comes for death, it is not possible to move that by an hour.

In November 2021, the social media was flooded with rumors about Erdogan’s death.