Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan canceled his election appearances for a third day Friday after falling ill with what officials described as an intestinal infection.
Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for two decades as prime minister and then president, is seeking a third presidential term in Turkey’s May 14 elections.
He had been due to appear at a bridge opening and a political rally in the southern city of Adana, but his schedule changed to show he would attend the opening ceremony via video link.
Erdogan became ill during a TV interview on Tuesday evening with what Health Minister Fahrettin Koca later said was a “gastrointestinal infection.” His election rallies planned for Wednesday and Thursday were canceled.
Erdogan was being interviewed live by Turkey’s Ulke TV and Kanal 7 stations late on Tuesday when the program was suddenly stopped. When the interview resumed around 20 minutes later, Erdogan, 69, explained that he had developed a serious “stomach flu” while campaigning and apologized for the interruption.
He looked pale Thursday as he inaugurated a nuclear power plant via video in his first public appearance since his illness.
Other officials sought to dispel concerns over the 69-year-old leader’s health ahead of next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
Recent polls showed a slight lead for Erdogan’s main challenger amid an economic downturn and a February earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.
Erdogan, who underwent intestinal surgery in 2011, has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and as president since 2014. He campaigned hard in recent weeks, attending several events across the country every day.
Erdogan’s main challenger, center-left opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, is backed by the Nation Alliance, a grouping of six political parties.
Kilicdaroglu and other members of the Alliance have expressed their wishes for Erdogan’s speedy recovery.
Turkish officials denied online rumors that Erdogan had suffered a serious illness and was hospitalized.
“We categorically reject such baseless claims regarding President (Erdogan’s) health,” his communications director, Fahrettin Altun tweeted.
Dr. Fahrettin Koca, the health minister, said Erdogan was improving.
“I was with him this morning. His health is fine,” Koca said Thursday. “The effect of his gastrointestinal infection has decreased. He will continue his schedule.”