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Video recordings and conflicting rumors… Everyone talks about “Erdogan’s health”

A few days ago, the Turkish authorities announced that they had initiated legal action against 30 people, accused of publishing a series of tweets on the social networking site “Twitter” alleging the death of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

These people, according to a statement issued by the police, had posted “misleading content” using the hashtag “#olmus”, which means “dead” in Turkish or “in the protection of God Almighty”, in a move that sparked controversy at a great level, and prompted the communications department in the Turkish presidency. to banish it immediately. 

The media department did not stop there. Rather, it turned to a response of another kind, as it published video recordings of Erdogan. One of them showed him preparing to travel to the capital, Ankara, by helicopter, and another documented his sports activities while playing basketball with a number of young men. 

For more than two months, most of the lights inside Turkey’s internal scene have been shed on the president’s health, and at the same time, questions and a state of controversy arose between the circles supporting the ruling party (Justice and Development) and the opposition parties, led by the Republican People’s Party. 

President Erdogan returned to Turkey instead of traveling to attend the Glasgow Conference
President Erdogan returned to Turkey after the G20 summit instead of traveling to attend the Glasgow conference

While there was denial and confirmation on the one hand, and suspicion on the other, the features of a two-pronged equation became clear, the first of which was the parties that cast doubts about Erdogan’s health and his ability to lead. 

While other parties tended to respond with video recordings showing him as “the strong one who is able to take the helm, either at the present time, or in the future, in preparation for the upcoming elections scheduled for 2023.” 

In an interview with Al-Hurra, Turkish researchers said that the above cannot be separated from the “electoral campaigns”, which the Turkish opposition parties are trying to export in the media for purposes whose features may become clearer in the coming months.

The researcher on Turkish affairs, Mahmoud Alloush, added to Al-Hurra that “the main goal of such rumors about Erdogan’s health is to try to show him as a weak leader, unable to continue ruling for another term.”

He points out: “Such rumors usually have an effect on some, but they lose their effect with every denial of them.” 

“from the inside out” 

The talk about Erdogan’s health was not limited to the inside during the past weeks, as it went beyond abroad, and became the talk of the international media as well. 

Foreign Policy magazine published a report in early October, pointing to “indications that may mean that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 67, may be ill to a point that makes his re-election difficult.”

The magazine reviewed video recordings included in its report, and indicated the conclusion that “Erdogan is not feeling well.” 

For its part, The New York Times quoted Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, as saying, “He (Erdogan) has been in office for too long and therefore appears to be suffering from an overburdened authority.”

He added in the context of the American newspaper report: “He is simply too tired to control the strings of the game and competition all the time.”

While researcher Alloush points to a noticeable rise in the phenomenon of “misleading rumors” within Turkey, he says: “They will increase as we approach the elections.”

 Several European countries were quick to respond to the Turkish President's statements
Entities in Turkey are trying to shed light on Erdogan’s health

He considered that “the rumors do not aim to prove their credibility as much as to raise doubts in the public opinion about the effectiveness of the government’s performance or the health of the president. Therefore, it achieves some of its goals by simply being circulated.”

Previously, the impact of misleading rumors was limited due to the presence of laws restricting their circulation in the media without verification of their authenticity.

But today, with the spread of social media in abundance, any rumor can reach the largest number of people without restrictions, which makes it influential.

Alloush explains, “Officials in Erdogan’s government are trying to deal quickly with such rumors, whether direct or indirect denial, especially since some of them deal with sensitive issues such as the president’s health or the economic situation, and ignoring them does not limit their negative impact.” 

“political agenda” 

For his part, the Turkish political researcher, Hisham Günay, believes that “the rumors that come out into the open are based on pictures… These pictures show the difficulty of walking for Erdogan, in a scene presented by the same circle of communication.”

Junay told Al-Hurra: “Based on the images transmitted by the media circulating on a daily basis, the opposition built a policy and an agenda and tended to promote that the president does not have the healthy ability to run the country.”

The Turkish researcher considered that “this matter affects the political scene and Erdogan’s popularity in particular.” 

Contrary to what was prevalent years ago, and according to the data imposed on the internal scene, an “early electoral atmosphere” prevails in Turkey, which is confirmed by the preparations shown by the political parties, both the ruling party (Justice and Development) and its ally on the one hand, and the Turkish opposition parties, led by the “People’s Party”. Republicans, on the other hand.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed

More than a year ago, it was noticeable that the opposition focused on accusing the ruling party, whether those related to the country’s internal policy, or those that fall within the framework of the general economic situation.

On the other hand, the “Justice and Development” and its ally the “National Movement” adhered to a path that did not depart from the framework of preparations either, but in a different way, as he stressed his steps related to amending the constitution, and the procedures associated with organizing elections.

And between these two tracks, there are conflicting results of polls published by research centers in Turkey.

While some of them show a noticeable decline in the popularity of the ruling party, others show that the results cannot be settled at the present time, with the odds in favor of “justice and development” at the expense of other parties in the maturity that many are waiting for.

“Campaigns on more than one side”

Meanwhile, researcher Alloush notes that before every election in Turkey, “many rumors are raised about Erdogan’s health.”

He says, “It is based mostly on speculations and analyzes of video scenes in which the president appears unable to move or stand normally, knowing that many of the press conferences he holds are in which he is standing for close to an hour sometimes.”

Alloush added that “the presidency usually responds to it by publishing videos of the president exercising.”

It was remarkable in the past weeks that the presidential response to these “rumours” was within a single context, which is to show Erdogan in full physical health, after publishing video recordings, most of which were while he was playing basketball. 

This response raises speculation about the reasons for the immediate response from the highest levels, and the goals behind it, both internally and at the level of foreign policy. 

Erdogan at the G20 Summit
Erdogan at the G20 Summit

With a different viewpoint, researcher Junay says that Erdogan had built “a basic agenda based on strength, loud voice and high pitch, in addition to criticizing former politicians from the point of view of their health.”

Junay added: “He previously criticized Bulent Ecevit for not resigning when he was sick, and he also criticized Necmettin Erbakan, accusing him of not leaving room for young people to take the helm.” 

Junay considered that “the statements made by Erdogan in the past prompt the opposition media and the parties to export them against him again, and that he has reached a certain stage of fatigue.” 

‘The case will not end’

All the imposed data indicate that the state of polarization and political controversy will not end easily inside Turkey. This is linked to the opposition parties’ attempts to exploit any crisis or disaster to confront the government, in a move to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2023.

During the past weeks, controversy prevailed over the refugee file in the country, reaching what is being talked about now about the consequences of the depreciation of the Turkish lira in the foreign exchange market.

Before that, a great controversy escalated in the previous months, due to the case of the Turkish “mafia leader”, Sadat Bakr, and the videos he had published, and said that they exposed corruption files within the government.

Junay expects that “the current rumors and doubts will affect the political scene in the next stage.” 

Regarding the presidential dealing with it, Junay added, “This is far from convincing public opinion, but rather has turned into another source of criticism for the opposition parties. These parties say that the presidency used to promote the president as a leader of the nation and the people, and now they are promoting that he is in good health.” “.

The researcher continues: “If there are elections, these scenes will be the master of the situation and can change the political scene.” 

There are still two years to go until the presidential election, which is scheduled for June 2023.

According to what the researchers told Al-Hurra website, “there are decisive factors in determining the choices of the Turkish voter and are not subject to change, such as ideology. Other factors such as the economy, the map of political alliances, and others are subject to change.”

At the present time, there are no clear features of what the alliances will be in the next stage.

While Erdogan is emerging as the main candidate for the “People’s Alliance” (the Justice and Development Party, the Nationalist Movement Party), there are no signs of agreement between the opposition parties allied within the “Nation Alliance” on the name of their candidate, or perhaps their candidates.

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