Erdogan rejects interior minister’s resignation over surprise coronavirus curfew

Suleyman Soylu resigned late on Sunday

(FILES) In this file photo taken on April 22, 2019, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu delivers a speech during a press conference in Ankara. Turkey's Erdogan refuses Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu 's resignation over pandemic response, AFP learns on April 12, 2020. / AFP / Adem ALTAN

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the resignation of his interior minister, who said he quit after a controversial weekend coronavirus curfew that was imposed with only two hours’ notice.

Suleyman Soylu resigned late on Sunday, taking responsibility for a poorly timed announcement of a weekend coronavirus curfew that prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets.

Mr Soylu is one of the most senior figures in Mr Erdogan’s government.

The president later said he had not accepted the resignation.

“Responsibility for implementing the weekend curfew decision, which was aimed at preventing the epidemic, belongs entirely to me,” Mr Soylu tweeted.

The 48-hour lockdown of 31 cities took effect on Friday night and ended on Sunday.

Thousands of people ran to shops to stock up on goods, many without wearing mandatory face masks.

Images of large, closely bunched crowds sparked criticism of the government’s planning for the lockdowns.

Mr Soylu said he had been proud to serve as interior minister and would continue to support Mr Erdogan.

Turkey reported 97 more deaths from Covid-19 on Sunday, bringing its total toll to 1,198.

The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) said the way the lockdown was announced had undermined efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey, which has registered 50,000 cases.

"A decision that needs to be taken for public health became a threat to public health due to lack of planning," CHP spokesman Faik Oztrak said. "The sacrifice of people self isolating for days has been wasted."

More than 1,100 people have died of Covid-19 in Turkey, many of them in Istanbul where CHP mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said municipal authorities had no advance warning of the move. "Decisions taken without common sense and co-operation will only cause confusion and panic," he said.

 

Turkey's lira fell more than 1 per cent to 6.800 against the US dollar after Soylu's statement.

The weekend lockdown came on top of existing curbs under which people under the age of 20 and over 65 have been told to stay at home.

Ankara has also halted all flights, restricted domestic travel, closed schools, bars and cafes, and suspended mass prayers. But people have still been going to work to sustain economic activity.

Transport minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan was removed two weeks ago after the ministry drew criticism for holding a tender amid the outbreak to prepare to build a huge canal on the edge of Istanbul.