Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made three campaign appearances before falling ill on Tuesday – Copyright South Korean Prime Minister’s Office/AFP Handout
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday canceled his scheduled appearances due to a stomach virus less than three weeks before Turkey’s decisive election.
The 69-year-old leader’s announcement came in the heat of a hard-fought campaign in what is considered Turkey’s most important election of its post-Ottoman era.
Erdogan was scheduled to make three appearances in the central Anatolian provinces on Wednesday.
But he said Vice President Fuat Oktay would take his place.
“Today I will rest at home on the advice of our doctors,” Erdogan said on his official Twitter account.
“With God’s permission, we will continue with our program starting tomorrow,” he said.
“On this occasion, I wish all my citizens health, peace and enjoyment.”
Erdogan has been tirelessly campaigning to reverse a slump in the polls and extend his two-decade run of election victories.
He is running neck-and-neck with secular opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and must contend with the double whammy of a raging economic crisis and the shock of a massive earthquake in February that claimed more than 50,000 lives.
But he cut short a live television interview Tuesday night after falling ill on air.
– ‘Oh, wow’ –
His television appearance Tuesday began more than 90 minutes late and then went into a commercial break in the middle of a question 10 minutes into the show.
The camera shook, and the reporter asking the question got up from his chair as the transmission was cut off.
“Oh wow,” an unidentified voice could be heard saying off camera.
Erdogan returned about 15 minutes later to apologize for getting sick.
“Yesterday and today it was hard work. That is why I had viral gastroenteritis,” Erdogan said.
“At one point, I wondered if it would be misconstrued if we canceled the show. But we promised. I ask for your forgiveness and that of our audience.”
The Turkish leader looked ashen and ended the program minutes later.
Erdogan underwent gastrointestinal surgery in 2012, but has otherwise been in solid health.
Turkey’s opposition leader Kilicdaroglu, 74, was one of the first of many politicians to wish Erdogan a speedy recovery on Tuesday.
“I convey my best wishes to Mr. Erdogan,” Kilicdaroglu tweeted moments after the episode aired.
Nationalist leader Meral Aksener and other senior members of Kilicdaroglu’s six-party opposition alliances also tweeted their support.
Erdogan was due to oversee the inauguration of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant on the southern coast on Thursday.
The launch of the Russian-built plant was to be one of the main events on Erdogan’s campaign program this week.