Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled his election campaign appearances scheduled for today (Wednesday April 26) after falling ill during a live interview on television late on Tuesday evening.
Video captures Erdogan seconds before he is taken off-air and concerned response of interviewer during the sudden incident (Credit: Kanal 7 broadcast).
Microphones caught the anxious words of someone in the TV studio saying, “Oh no, oh no” as the Kanal 7 broadcast was interrupted when the production team suddenly saw that Erdogan was unwell. After several minutes, Erdogan, 69, resumed the interview, saying he’d developed an upset stomach. “Naturally, we are facing such issues from time to time amid such a busy [election campaign] schedule,” Erdogan told the interviewer. He then answered one more question before the interview ended.
On Wednesday morning, Erdogan tweeted that his doctors had advised him to rest at home today following “the minor inconvenience that I had during the broadcast”.
The TV programme had started 1.5 hours behind schedule without explanation. Erdogan said he’d considered cancelling the interview due to his stomach issues.
Erdogan was scheduled to make campaign appearances in three separate provinces in central Turkey on Wednesday. The schedule was confirmed after the incident of illness by his staff, prior to the later cancellation.
“Thank God, our president’s health is good,” his spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter, not long after the incident.
The main opposition bloc’s joint candidate for the May 14 presidential election, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, wished Erdogan a quick recovery in a post on Twitter.
The last wave of speculation about Erdogan suffering from poor health lasted for several months from mid-2001. In October of that year, Foreign Policy reported on signs that the strongman may be too sick to run for re-election.
Authoritarian Erdogan is facing his toughest election race since he became Turkey’s leader in 2003. The opposition aligned against him is broad while the country’s economic situation is described by critics as catastrophic—Erdogan is accused of economic mismanagement that brought massive inflation and a collapse in the value of the Turkish lira. The extent of Turkey’s early February double-earthquake catastophe, which killed at least 51,000 in the country, is also widely blamed on the Erdogan administration, given how corruption, laxity and incompetence, in the eyes of critical observers, contributed to so much housing stock that was vulnerable to being “pancaked” in a known earthquake zone.
In July last year, Erdogan appeared to momentarily fall asleep as he addressed members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in an Eid al-Adha greeting. A video of the incident went viral.
In its assessment of Erdogan’s health three months later, Foreign Policy referred to that incident and several other pieces of video footage suggesting Turkey’s leader was not at all well, writing: “In one clip, for example, the president appears to need the assistance of his wife and an aid as he negotiates a set of stairs. In another, he seems to shuffle and have some difficulty walking at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. And, in a video that received considerable attention this past July, Erdogan seems to fade out and slur his words during a televised holiday greeting to AKP members.
“At times, he has looked quite gaunt. In tandem with this footage are rumors about the president’s health—including stories alleging he has been dealing with increasing forgetfulness, bouts of breathing problems, confusion, vomiting, and the implantation of an internal defibrillator. According to these same accounts, the president has increased the number of doctors around him, reduced encounters with the press, and is being pumped up with painkillers before public events.
“Of course, these rumors are most often repeated by people outside of Turkey or more than a few steps removed from the president’s inner circle, so the allegations of Erdogan's coming demise might just be idle chatter.”
In bne IntelliNews’ OUTLOOK 2023: Turkey, released in January, this publication wrote: “Erdogan (who will turn 69 at the end of February) has lately shown relatively good health as far as can be ascertained from his appearances in public. Nevertheless, his physical and mental performances certainly remain somewhat volatile. He can at any time go missing from public view for a few days. He shows some physical difficulties in front of the cameras.
“Since 2011, Erdogan has gradually lost his cognition of reality. It rained money in Turkey up until 2013 due to global conditions. And up until 2019, Erdogan continued to distribute wealth from domestic accumulation.
“Since then, he has shown no acceptance of the cold reality that the sultan is overthrown when his money runs out. Even the Ottoman reign of Suleiman the Magnificent came to an end.”