By Athena Papakosta

It was the first appearance of Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the his sudden unwellness in an interviewin a live broadcast, last Tuesday on the KANAL 7 television network.

The Turkish president had canceled his pre-election program – for both Wednesday and Thursday – making only one exception for the opening of the country’s first nuclear power plant in Akougiou. However, although he was preparing a pre-election fiesta, on the occasion of this inauguration ceremony, he was, in the end, limited to simply appearing via teleconference.

Sitting behind a desk in the presidential palace in Ankara, with members of the government and political allies flanking him, Turkey’s president made no mention of his health. He seemed overwhelmed with the national and foreign media watching him and trying to guess what is finally happening with the Turkish president’s state of health.

In his statements, he did not even once refer to what was initially described as a cold and then, by the country’s Minister of Health, as gastroenteritis. Instead, he only talked about the nuclear power plant. For him it was a moment of pride since his country is taking a place, as he said, among the world’s nuclear powers.

At the same time, rumors are rife in Turkey about the “big patient” with some even talking of a heart attack, a fact that Ankara stubbornly denies.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is 69 years old and it is not the first time that his health has concerned Turkish society. However, it is important to underline the timing of last Tuesday’s malaise since in about two and a half weeks – and specifically on May 14 – Turkey goes to the polls for the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

For two months now, Erdogan has been fighting an existential battle and chasing every vote. For the first time, after almost two decades in power, he looks vulnerable. Every rally, every speech, every public appearance matters to his campaign, and each takes on even greater and more substantial significance when the polling lead of Kemal Kilicdaroglu and the party alliance that supports him is added to the equation. Erdogan finishes second in the pre-election race.

It may be that the opening ceremony of Akugiou did not look like the pre-election fiesta that we were all “waiting for”, but the president of Turkey managed to turn his gaze to it as well as to his ally who was greeting him from the next window. Vladimir Putin also participated in the ceremony via video conference and when he took the floor he emphasized that the nuclear power plant in Akuyu is the biggest project in the history of Russian-Turkish ties.

This ceremony was another event in the series of all those that the Turkish president has chosen to be an ace up his sleeve in the pre-election period as they relate to infrastructure and defense – two areas in which Recep Tayyip Erdogan is investing as a counterweight both in the economy and because of his Erdoganomics cost as dear as the effects of the double Enceladus fatal strike on the country last February.

At the moment, Turks abroad are voting after the polling stations “opened” for the 1.5 million Turks in Germany and the approximately 400,000 in France. Turkish residents abroad will be able to vote until May 9, with double polls being held in Turkey on the 14th of the month.

Time is running out, Erdogan’s image pales and the question that remains is whether the Turkish president will prove too strong to die politically.