Speculation in Turkey: Erdogan’s dropouts

Status: 14.09.2021 2:49 p.m.

Are the Turkish President Erdogan showing signs of wear and tear after around 18 years at the helm of the state and government? There is speculation in the country about the 67-year-old’s health.

By Gabriele Dunkel, ARD Studio Istanbul

It is incidents like this that are fueling speculation about Erdogan’s state of health or mood: On July 21, a message of greeting from Erdogan for the four-day festival of sacrifice will be broadcast live for the supporters of the ruling AKP party. The video lasts 13 minutes, the president looks sedate, doesn’t sound very enthusiastic, unlike usual. In the middle of it he even nods briefly – then continues.

The video quickly finds its way onto social media. The mockery on the net is not long in coming: “There are many who fall asleep while listening. But Erdogan falls asleep while speaking,” tweeted a user from Turkey. The opposition Internet newspaper “Toplumsal” promptly headlines: “Is he tired or sick?” and raises the question of whether the video was actually live or a recording and who then published it and with what aim.

Officials say that this is only human. The conservative press excuses his dropout with the president’s heat and ongoing workload.

Prime Minister, President of the Republic – it stands to reason that these offices are very demanding for a politician. The Turkish opposition asks how high this tribute has now been for Erdogan.

Image: dpa

The teleprompter helps

On another live broadcast on August 12, Recep Tayyip Erdogan answered questions from selected journalists sitting across from him. When the camera is set, a teleprompter with Erdogan’s ready-made answers becomes visible behind them. Here, too, the network responds with malice, the incident reveals that the journalists loyal to the government are asking for the answers, and not the other way around, Erdogan responding to questions.

The situation is also strange because Erdogan is actually known for speaking freely and without submission, live on television and on podiums. Timur Soykan from the left-wing opposition newspaper “Birgün” asks: “What’s wrong with Tayyip Erdogan?” The once good speaker, whose fiery speeches at AKP rallies were decisive for the election, has changed.

Soykan writes that the opposition would even claim that Erdogan could no longer speak without a prompt. Soykan also raises the question of whether Erdogan’s judgment is not clouded by his state of health. After all, Erdogan is the head of state who makes all decisions for the country alone. The journalist urges the government to stop speculation and openly communicate the current state of health of the president.

It still exists, Erdogan’s statesmanlike appearance. But the other events, which seem less dynamic, are increasing.

Image: AP

Yesterday’s standards

The opposition and the critics of the president are left with nothing but speculation. But they also want to measure the president against his own words. Because when Erdogan himself was still in the opposition, he repeatedly sharply criticized older politicians and loudly called for their retirement age of 65 years. In a speech to his parliamentary group in May 2002, he suggested to then Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit of the Democratic Left Party DSP that he should resign because he was ill and no longer able to govern the country. Erdogan was 48 years old at the time, Ecevit 77.

Erdogan had previously been quoted in the newspaper “Star” as saying that he would only join a party in which people over 65 are no longer involved in politics. Today Erdogan is 67 years old. His statements from then are now juxtaposed with the videos of today.

That Erdogan is a persistent power man is undisputed even in opposition circles. But not least the recent faux pas are causing doubts, at least for the moment, about the image of the instinct politician Erdogan.

In 2002 Erdogan was preparing to become prime minister of his country. At the time, he had other ideas about the role of senior politicians in the country.

Image: picture-alliance / dpa / dpaweb

A different kind of motorway opening

A recent video shows him with children at the opening of a motorway tunnel. Before the president officially cuts the ribbon, a little boy beats him and cuts the ribbon. Erdogan, standing behind him, observed this with displeasure and vigorously patted the child three times on the head – knowing that all cameras were aimed at him. This is widely commented on on social media. On Twitter, the video is juxtaposed with many photos of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic, showing him loving children: “That’s how it works!”

In polls, Erdogan’s government is currently doing badly, the approval ratings are falling. At the end of August, the Istanbul polling institute “MetroPOLL” announced that, according to its latest surveys, the AKP only had 29.3 percent. In comparison: In the last parliamentary elections in June 2018, the AKP still achieved 42.5 percent. The largest opposition party, the CHP, currently has 19 percent. With this, the nation’s opposition alliance overtakes the ruling People’s Alliance.

For the first time in 19 years, it is not certain whether the current government alliance would achieve a majority. The next elections in Turkey will take place in 2023.

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