Turkish president rejects minister’s resignation over virus

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s president has rejected the resignation of the country’s interior minister who took responsibility for a poorly timed announcement of a weekend lockdown that prompted thousands of people to rush into the streets to stock up on supplies.

The 48-hour lockdowns across 31 cities — which were aimed to contain the spread of the coronavirus — were announced just two hours before taking effect on Friday night. Thousands of people rushed into the streets 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 to top the coronavirus.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, one of the most senior figures in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, announced late Sunday that he was stepping down, saying: “responsibility for implementing the weekend curfew decision … belongs entirely to me.”

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Erdogan’s office said however that the president is not accepting the resignation and Soylu “will continue in his duty.”

Soylu, 50, was appointed interior minister in August 2016. He joined Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in 2012, having switched from the center-right Democrat Party. Since then, he has risen to be viewed by some as a potential successor to Erdogan and a rival of the president’s son-in-law, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak.

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