Erdogan Scraps Campaign Stops After 'Illness' Suddenly Interrupts Live TV Interview

Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool

It’s not 100 percent clear what happened when a live TV interview with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan halted for several minutes on Tuesday.

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Erdogan was in the middle of an interview Tuesday evening, according to Bloomberg, when the program was suddenly “interrupted”:

The cameras didn’t show Erdogan in the moments before the TV broadcast was interrupted, focusing instead on an interviewer asking a question. But microphones captured the concerned words of someone in the room saying, “Oh no, oh no.” The comments were widely circulated on social media.

The program had started 1.5 hours behind schedule without explanation. Erdogan said he’d considered canceling the interview due to his “upset stomach.” […]

Erdogan’s TV interview on Tuesday night was disrupted for several minutes after the 69-year-old president became sick with what he said was stomach flu. He canceled three campaign speeches scheduled to take place in central Turkey on Wednesday.

Now, Bloomberg reports, he’s canceled a trip with more campaign stops on Thursday:

The decision to cancel Thursday’s trip was made on advice from doctors, the official said, asking not to be identified because of sensitivity of the matter. The presidency declined to comment. […]

Erdogan will refrain from visiting the Mediterranean coast city of Mersin on Thursday, where he was scheduled to attend a ceremony to mark the inaugural loading of fuel at a new power plant, according to a senior Turkish official with direct knowledge of the matter.

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That scheduled stop would seem to be important on a diplomatic level—the opening of a power plant project with Russia. So it makes sense that Erdogan has found a way to attend it; he will reportedly appear via video conference, along with Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the event.

Until more information or a statement from Erdogan himself is released, instead of leaked information from anonymous sources inside the Turkish government, no one really knows what took place Tuesday. Speculation is floating around that Erdogan may have suffered something far worse than a run of the mill flu, like a heart attack.

But if that were the case, a few questions immediately emerge. First, how could Erdogan have continued the interview right away? There’s no report that he received or sought emergency treatment after whatever happened. Maybe he did, but without more details on how things played out at the interview, no one really knows. Second, it’s doubtful that someone who’s seriously ill can take part in official appearances, even remotely, like he’s scheduled to do on Thursday.

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Erdogan’s health-related incident gives us a glimpse at Turkey’s presidential election, as our nation’s begins to ramp up over the past few weeks. Bloomberg writes that he’s “facing his toughest election since taking power in 2003,” with six different political parties working together by nominating one candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Notice the tone of Kilicdaroglu’s reaction to his political opponents’ ill health:

The opposition alliance has chosen Kemal Kilicdaroglu, 74, as its joint presidential contender in the May 14 vote. Kilicdaroglu wished Erdogan a quick recovery in a post on Twitter.

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