Turkey elections: Erdogan canceled public appearances after falling ill on live TV

(CNN) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan He largely canceled a two-day campaign as the crucial election approached after falling ill during a live TV interview.

An interview Tuesday with the president – who faces a battle to retain power in next month’s elections – was cut short in the middle of a question, and Erdogan later came back and said he had a “severe stomach flu”.

As a result, Erdogan canceled public events so he could rest, though on Thursday afternoon he appeared via video link to the inauguration of the Akoya nuclear power plant.

A joint Turkish government broadcast showed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was actually attending the ceremony. Before the ceremony, the two men spoke on the phone, according to the Communications Directorate of the Turkish Presidency.

Erdogan thanked Putin for his contributions to the nuclear plant during the conversation, while “developments in the Russian-Ukrainian war and work on the grain deal were discussed,” according to a statement.

“The Russian president also conveyed his best wishes to President Erdogan,” the statement added.

“No amount of disinformation can dispute the fact that the Turkish people stand by their leader and that RT Erdogan and his AK party are set to win the May 14 elections,” said the presidency’s communications director. Fakhruddin Elton he said on Twitter.

His tweet included pictures on social media, some of which indicated that Erdogan was in a critical condition in hospital after suffering a myocardial infarction.

The election is perhaps the most important in Turkey’s modern history, and it comes just months after a deadly earthquake shook the country’s southeast on February 6, killing more than 50,000 people there and in neighboring Syria. It is also declining amid soaring inflation and a currency crisis that last year saw a nearly 30% drop in the value of the lira against the dollar.

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Erdogan, 69, hopes to extend his power into a third decade, but that is far from a political certainty.

In a major setback for the Turkish president and leader of the Justice and Development Party, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party announced last month that it would not field its presidential candidate, according to analysts. His supporters are allowed to vote for Erdogan’s main rival, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Kilicdaroglu, who represents the opposition bloc in the six-party Nation Alliance, is the strongest contender to run against Erdogan in years. And while the HDP has not yet announced whether it will put its weight behind it, analysts say it is the election kingmaker.

Kurds are the largest minority in Turkey, making up between 15% and 20% of the population, according to the Minority Rights Group International.

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