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Ailing Erdogan Spends Third Day Away From Campaign Trail in Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stayed home for a third day on Friday following a stomach ailment that has interrupted his campaign to extend his rule beyond 20 years.

The 69-year-old leader cleared his busy schedule of public appearances after getting sick live on TV on Tuesday night.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Mr Erdogan is suffering from gastroenteritis. The digestive problem is easily treated and usually clears up in a few days.

But it has disrupted Mr Erdogan’s attempts to seize momentum in the run-up to Turkey’s most important election in generations on May 14.

He has been trying to compensate by addressing nationally televised ceremonies by video link.

He and Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared jointly at a videoconference on Thursday to unveil a nuclear power plant a Kremlin-linked company helped Turkey build on its southern coast.

Mr Erdogan made a 10-minute virtual appearance on Friday to inaugurate a new bridge in the southern city of Adana.

Both events are the kind of public launches Mr Erdogan has been using daily to boost his image ahead of his toughest election test yet.

Such events are aired live on TV and then dominate discussions in pro-government media, which control much of Turkey’s airwaves and print.

But Mr Erdogan was sporting bags under his eyes and looked lethargic in both appearances.

He had scheduled events in five cities over two days before falling ill.

This has created more room for national channels to air rallies by secular opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Polls suggest the two men are most likely to be heading for a run-off election on May 28.

But Mr Kilicdaroglu enjoys a lead in most public opinion surveys and still hopes to secure a first-round victory by picking up more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Much of the attention is now focused on whether Mr Erdogan will appear at two major campaign stops planned for Sunday and Monday.

His ruling party is planning what pro-government media are dubbing a “show of force” rally in a central square in Ankara on Sunday that has a capacity for several hundred thousand people.

Mr Erdogan was planning on Monday to visit a plant in the capital responsible for producing Turkish fighter jets and drones.

Neither event would require the Turkish leader to travel far outside his presidential complex.

Source: Straitstimes