Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to begin active duty in Ankara today after spending nearly three weeks recovering from abdominal surgery at his residence in Istanbul.
“The prime minister’s health is very good. He completed the period of convalescence and is back to work. He will return to Ankara normally and begin work,” Health Minister Recep Akdağ said yesterday.
Akdağ told reporters “not to give credit to gossip” to claims that Erdoğan was to be flown from Istanbul on an ambulance plane or whether a special room had been prepared for him at Ankara’s Hacettepe Hospital.
Following his Nov. 26 operation in Istanbul, Erdoğan was scheduled to chair today the meeting of the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ), which deals with military promotions, and convene the Cabinet tomorrow.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, meanwhile, said he had made a “very big mistake” in regards to the intra-party frictions that recently emerged over a controversial match-fixing law.
Before Erdoğan’s arrival yesterday evening, Arınç voiced strong regret for having said “no one will ever dare to again consider [the match-fixing law],” after an initial presidential veto produced divisions within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Erdoğan’s absence.
“I made only one mistake in this process and it was a very big mistake for which I cannot forgive myself,” Arınç told private broadcaster CNNTürk, adding that his remarks amounted to “interference” in Parliament’s legislative will.
The bill, which drastically reduced penalties for match fixing in football, opened cracks in the AKP ranks, but the party eventually insisted on the legislation after Erdoğan instructed aides to ignore President Abdullah Gül’s veto. Parliament passed the bill for a second time without changes last week and Gül signed it into law yesterday.
Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazıcı and AKP deputy chairman Hüseyin Çelik were the other senior party members who had publicly welcomed Gül’s veto. Arınç likened the short-lived spat to a “fly’s bite” for the AKP and played down suggestions that it reflected deep-running rivalry between Gül and Erdoğan and their respective inner circles within the party.
“No one should expect us to fall out over an issue as simple as a fly’s bite. We’ve been through much harder times. We’ve been in politics together for 30 years. Our confidence in each other is endless,” Arınç said.
“I express my opinions, but if I see that they are harming the party I will step back. One should not cause damage to the party’s unity and the government’s strength,” he said.
Asked about the controversy over the length of the president’s term, Arınç said it was too early to comment on who would succeed Gül and when. It is “not right and agreeable” to suggest that Erdoğan would become president with Gül returning as prime minister in a way similar to the Vladimir Putin-Dmitry Medvedev example in Russia, he said.
Prime Ministry sources, meanwhile, said it was uncertain whether Erdoğan would visit Anıtkabir today as part of the routine YAŞ program and go to a reception in the evening hosted by the International Investors Association of Turkey (YASED) even though his attendance had been announced in a press release by the group.