Two days after suffering a health scare live on air Turkey’s President Erdoğan was shown alongside Vladimir Putin on TV, inaugurating a Russian-built nuclear power plant in Turkey by video link. Erdoğan is in the middle of an election campaign, with Turkey going to the polls on May 14.
Turkish television has shown pictures of President Erdogan for the first time since he cut short a live broadcast on Tuesday after suffering from an alleged intestinal complaint.
The President, who had cancelled election campaign events since then, was shown participating in a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin to mark an opening ceremony for a Russian-built nuclear power plant in southern Turkey. The 69-year-old leader was said to look tired and drawn in the broadcast.
The nuclear plant is the latest flagship infrastructure project that Erdoğan and the AKP are hoping will sway voters at the upcoming election on May 14.
After cutting the broadcast on Tuesday, Erdoğan’s supporters rallied to his cause.
Health Minister Derya Yanik told Turkish television on Thursday that Erdoğan was on the mend.
“There is nothing to worry about. He is well,” she said. “He will resume his intense programme tomorrow, I think.”
But the health scare has upturned Erdoğan’s travel schedule and complicated his path to a third decade of rule.
Erdogan is known for his love of campaigning and embracing political fights.
Polls show him running neck and neck or losing against opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu in Turkey’s most momentous election in decades — if not its entire post-Ottoman history.
His Islamic-rooted party’s control of parliament through an alliance with a far-right group is also under threat.
Erdoğan had used his campaign speeches to launch venomous barbs at the opposition and portray himself as a man who gets the job done.
That image has been shaken — and his office is fighting back.
The president’s powerful media director Fahrettin Altun posted screenshots on Twitter of Chinese state media and some popular accounts speculating about Erdoğan’s condition being more serious than officially reported.
“We categorically reject such baseless claims regarding President Erdoğan’s health,” Altun wrote.
“No amount of disinformation can dispute the fact that the Turkish people stand with their leader and Erdoğan and his AK Party are set to win the May 14 elections.”
Erdoğan’s video link hookup with Putin unveiled a project that Russia began building in 2018.
The Akkuyu plant’s construction on Turkey’s southern shore has been complicated by sanctions the West imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
“Yes, we have certain logistical problems,” Akkuyu plant director Sergei Butskikh told reporters on the eve of the launch.
“The transportation routes are getting longer. Not all of the shipping companies are able to work with us. So here yes, we feel the sanctions. But this has not affected the quality of the plant’s construction,” he said.
Erdoğan has been one of the few world leaders to maintain good relations with Putin by refusing to sign up to Western sanctions on Russia and trying to mediate an end to the war.