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12 Apr, 2020 22:45

Turkey’s Erdogan rejects interior minister’s resignation after last-minute curfew announcement triggers chaos

Turkey’s Erdogan rejects interior minister’s resignation after last-minute curfew announcement triggers chaos

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected the resignation of his interior minister after the latter took responsibility for mass panic that saw thousands swarming shops across Turkey ahead of a 48-hour curfew.

"The minister submitted his resignation to the president, and the president has informed him that he did not approve that request. The interior minister's resignation has not been accepted. He shall continue to perform his duties,” the Turkish president’s office said in a statement late on Sunday – two days after an eleventh-hour decision by Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu to impose a two-day curfew caused an estimated 250,000 people across the nation to flood stores and bakeries in a last-ditch effort to stock up on food and other essential supplies.

In his statement, Erdogan praised Soylu – a hugely popular figure in the country – for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as for leading the fight against domestic terrorism.

"Suleyman Soylu... has gained the appreciation of our nation with his successful work so far," the statement read.

The scenes of street brawls breaking out in the wake of the curfew announcement, which came mere hours before it was to come into effect at midnight on Friday, has drawn backlash, with some arguing that Soylu’s timing of the move has helped the spread of the virus, instead of stopping it in its tracks.

Soylu then took full responsibility for the blunder, saying he was stepping down pending approval from the Turkish leader.

“I should not have caused such scenes in this incident, the responsibility for which is on me,” he said.

As news of Erdogan rejecting Soylu’s resignation spread, impromptu celebrations erupted, with videos shared on social media showing people clapping and cheering from their balconies.

Cars were seen honking their horns on the streets, as drivers joined in the celebratory mood.

The curfew that was in effect in Turkey’s 31 provinces ended as clocks struck midnight on Sunday, with the Interior Ministry saying that while most citizens abided by the restrictions, some 18,770 were subjected to “administrative and procedural penalties” for violating the curfew.

While the curfew has been lifted, Turkey remains in a state of partial lockdown, with schools, eateries and malls closed and a ban imposed on mass events. Those over 65 and under 20 had been told to stay at home.

Also on rt.com Coronavirus deaths in Turkey could reach 600,000, claims Turkish professor

Turkey’s death toll from the pandemic stands at 1,198 as of Sunday, while the number of confirmed cases reached 56,956, jumping by 4,789 in the last 24 hours.

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