Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has asked for "the blessing of" people who have been financially strained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were in an effort to give every kind of support to some of our tradespeople as well as the tourism sector who have been affected by the restrictions, for them to remain on their feet during this difficult period. But if there have been tradespeople, employees who were in [financial] distress, we ask from all of them their blessing," Erdoğan said on May 14, while addressing a virtual meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdoğan's comments drew ire among social media users, with the hashtag of #helaletmiyorum ("I am not giving my blessing") becoming trending on Twitter.
İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener similarly slammed Erdoğan over his remarks, urging him to declare an early election.
"If you want to ask for forgiveness, do not be scared and bring the poll boxes, so that we can receive each other's blessing," Akşener wrote on Twitter.
Sayın @RTErdogan sen unutmuş olabilirsin ama, siyasetçi milletiyle kürsülerde değil, sandıkta helalleşir.— Meral Akşener (@meral_aksener) May 14, 2021
Madem helalleşmek istiyorsun, korkma, getir sandığı helalleşelim.
Zor durumdaki çiftçiyle, esnafla, işsiz gençle helalleşelim.
Milletimizin kutlu iradesiyle helalleşelim. https://t.co/ddQQlJbg59
Erdoğan announces 'controlled normalization' period starting next week
Erdoğan also said that the country will once again launch a “controlled normalization” process on May 17, when the two-and-a-half-week strict COVID-19 lockdown comes to an end.
“As we have promised our nation, we are starting to implement our controlled normalization calendar as of Monday. We will share the details with our nation following the Cabinet meeting,” Erdoğan said.
He said that although the controlled normalization phase will be implemented in a "cautious" manner until the end of May, the government plans to unveil a significant easing of the measures in June.