President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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.
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.
Erdogan 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,” Erdogan 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 AKP party, announced that Erdogan had also cancelled his programme 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 Erdogan’s campaign schedule this week.
Erdogan 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 Kilicdaroglu 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.
Erdogan returned about 15 minutes later to apologise for getting sick.
“Yesterday and today were hard work. That’s why I got a stomach flu,” Erdogan said.
“At one point, I wondered if it would be misunderstood if we cancelled the programme. But we promised. I ask for your and our audience’s forgiveness.”
The Turkish leader looked ashen and ended the programme a few minutes later.
Erdogan had gastrointestinal in surgery in 2012 but has otherwise enjoyed robust health.
Turkey’s 74-year-old opposition leader Kilicdaroglu was among the first of many politicians to wish Erdogan a swift recovery on Tuesday.
“I convey my best wishes to Mr. Erdogan,” Kilicdaroglu tweeted moments after the episode aired.
Nationalist leader Meral Aksener and other top members of Kilicdaroglu’s six-party opposition alliance also tweeted their support.