Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a ceremony in Ankara. Reuters / MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/PPO

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been forced to stop the ongoing election campaign after falling sick during a live TV interview.

The live broadcast was brought to a sudden halt when the president suddenly fell ill. However, after a 20-minute break, he reappeared, saying that he had developed "serious stomach flu" after two days of intense campaigning.

"Today I will rest at home upon the advice of my doctors ... with God's permission, we will continue our campaign from tomorrow onwards." The vice-president, Fuat Oktay, said he would "attend campaign events across central Turkey in his place," he later tweeted.

Turkey is set to hold its parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14. It also needs to be noted that the incumbent president is facing tough competition from his rivals; in fact, it is being dubbed his toughest election campaign so far.

Some polls have suggested that he is losing against opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, while others suggest that it is a close fight.

Erdogan's ill health has only added to his woes. He was forced to cancel a number of high-profile campaigns because of his health. Health Minister Fehrettin Koca said that Erdogan had "infectious gastroenteritis."

There have been several rumours about his health since he underwent two gastrointestinal surgeries in 2011 and 2012. He also developed a slight hitch in his gait after the operations.

He had fallen sick during a live interview in 2016 as well. However, he appeared to continue the interview after several minutes, according to a BBC report.

The incident led to social media speculation concerning his health. Erdogan's head of communications, Fahrettin Altun, took to Twitter to "categorically reject such baseless claims."

"No amount of disinformation can dispute the fact that the Turkish people stand with their leader and @RTErdogan and his AK Party are set to win the May 14 elections," he wrote in a Twitter post.

He re-emerged after a two-day break to inaugurate a Russian-built nuclear power plant via video link. Initially, he was to travel to the Mediterranean coast for the opening ceremony. He appeared at the unveiling ceremony with Vladimir Putin. The construction of the nuclear plant started in 2018 in Turkey's Akkuyu region.

The plant faced several logistical constraints due to the sanctions imposed by Western nations on Russia. But that did not deter Russia and Turkey from continuing the construction.

Turkey is one of the few countries in the world that has managed to maintain good relations with Russia and has refused to sanction the country for invading Ukraine.