The Mystery of Erdogan's Health
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been absent from public view for two days after he abruptly ended a live TV interview on Tuesday with an apparent health problem. The incident has sparked rumours and speculation about his condition, especially as he faces a tough reelection campaign on May 14.
What happened on Tuesday?
Erdogan was conducting a live TV interview with a pro-government channel when he suddenly stopped talking and made some groaning noises. The interviewer looked alarmed and stood up, while the camera cut away from Erdogan's side of the screen. The interview was then terminated without any explanation.
According to Erdogan's office, he had developed an upset stomach due to his hectic schedule of travelling and attending rallies across five cities on Monday and Tuesday. His health minister said he had "infectious gastroenteritis" – a short-term illness caused by the inflammation of the digestive tract.
However, some media outlets and social media users have questioned this official account and suggested that Erdogan may have suffered a more serious condition, such as a heart attack or a stroke. Some have even claimed that he is in a coma or dead, without providing any evidence.
How has Erdogan responded?
Erdogan has not made any public appearance since Tuesday, but he has spoken by phone with some foreign leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. He also addressed Putin by video link on Thursday at a virtual ceremony unveiling a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Turkey.
In his video message, Erdogan looked pale and frail, but he tried to project health and vigour by saying that Turkey had risen to the league of nations with nuclear power. He also praised his cooperation with Putin and expressed his hope to meet him in person soon.
Erdogan's media director Fahrettin Altun has dismissed the rumours about his health as "baseless" and "disinformation". He said that Erdogan and his party are set to win the May 14 elections and that the Turkish people stand with their leader.
Why does it matter?
Erdogan's health is a matter of national and international concern, as he is one of the most powerful and influential leaders in the region and beyond. He has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and then as president, and has transformed the country's politics, economy, society and foreign policy.
However, he is also facing growing challenges at home and abroad, such as a weakening economy, rising inflation, human rights violations, diplomatic tensions, security threats and popular discontent. His popularity has declined in recent years, and polls suggest that he is running neck-and-neck or losing against his main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the secular opposition party.
Erdogan is known for his love of campaigning and his combative style of politics. He has used his rallies to attack his opponents and portray himself as a man who gets things done. His absence from the campaign trail could hurt his chances of winning another term in office.
Moreover, Erdogan's health could also affect the stability and continuity of Turkey's political system, which he has reshaped according to his own vision and interests. He has amassed enormous power in his hands by abolishing the parliamentary system and introducing an executive presidency with few checks and balances. He has also purged or sidelined many potential rivals or successors within his own party and state institutions.
If Erdogan were to become incapacitated or die, it is unclear who would take over or how smoothly the transition would take place. The constitution stipulates that if the presidency becomes vacant, new elections must be held within 45 days. However, there is no clear mechanism for determining who would act as interim president or how long they would stay in power.
Erdogan's health remains a guarded secret, as he has not disclosed any details about his medical history or current condition. He may recover soon and resume his normal activities, or he may face further complications or relapses. His supporters may rally behind him out of sympathy or loyalty, or they may lose confidence or enthusiasm for him.
Whatever happens, Erdogan's health will likely have a significant impact on Turkey's upcoming elections and its future direction.