Erdogan: May election to go ahead despite quake

Erdogan: May election to go ahead despite quake

'We are not hiding behind excuses,' Turkish president says of quake response

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with rescue workers as he visits the hard-hit southeastern province of Hatay, following the Feb 20 earthquake. (Photo: AFP)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands with rescue workers as he visits the hard-hit southeastern province of Hatay, following the Feb 20 earthquake. (Photo: AFP)

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday ruled out any delay in elections after the devastating quake that killed tens of thousands in Turkey, saying the vote would push ahead on May 14 as planned.

After the massive 7.8-magnitude quake that killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey, speculation mounted on whether the polls — which could keep Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government in power until 2028 — would be able to proceed.

Last month, Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency across 11 quake-hit provinces, and the region is still suffering from strong tremors that make the likelihood of campaigning in the area extremely unlikely.

But Erdogan told his ruling party lawmakers in the Ankara parliament that "(Turkish) people will do what is necessary on May 14."

A delegation from Turkey's Higher Election Board started a mission on Monday to the quake zone to report on the voters' situation and election security.

Erdogan's government has come under fire for failing to deploy sufficient humanitarian aid and relief teams in several locations in the days following the earthquake.

Survivors in several provinces told AFP they had to pull out people with their bare hands, and complained of the absence of help in initial days.

Erdogan has acknowledged some "shortcomings" immediately after the disaster, but blamed severe weather conditions and damaged roads.

"There were shortcomings, disruptions and delays but we... rushed to help earthquake survivors with all our might," he said on Wednesday.

"We are not hiding behind excuses," he added.

'Fall under the ruins'

The catastrophe struck just as Erdogan was gaining momentum and starting to lift his approval numbers from a low reached during a dire economic crisis that exploded last year.

The quake affected 14 million people in Turkey, and caused tens of thousands of buildings to collapse.

It has caused more than $34 billion in damage to the country, the World Bank said on Monday, adding that the estimate does not account for the costs of reconstruction that were "potentially twice as large".

Opposition parties have criticised Erdogan's handling of the disaster and accused him of failing to prepare the quake-prone country for a catastrophe.

"We know that some are rubbing their hands, waiting for the state and the government to fall under the ruins," Erdogan said.

Unable to agree on a candidate for more than a year, Erdogan's opponents were planning to pick a name on Thursday.

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