Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to draw sharp criticism over the grandiose building he commissioned when he was Prime Minister. He has been accused of acting like a “sultan” having moved into the recently completed ‘Ak Saray’ (White Palace); the largest residential palace in the word built at a cost of £384 million, the ‘Telegraph’ reports.
The building cost twice the estimate and was built without permission in the protected Attaturk Forestry Park just outside Ankara that lost hundreds of its trees to make way for the new palace. Ak Saray with its 1,000 rooms, covers 3.1 million square feet of land and is four times the size of Versailles. The newspaper says that President Erdogan designed much of the building himself which also has an underground bunker and describes the interior as having:
“A majestic hallway leads up to a sweeping staircase. The quixotic architectural style seems to cross the Ottoman and Seljuk traditions with that of a modern Chinese railway station. The bathrooms have silk wallpaper and the whole edifice is surrounded by a forested park.”
Erdogan’s critics have denounced the project as a folie de grandeur. “The so-called sultan has built this for himself in a country where three million people are without work,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the opposition Republican People’s party. “You cut down hundreds of trees to build yourself this palace.”
Erdogan ignored a number of court orders to halt construction. Even after a court ruling in March of this year, Erdogan, who was then still prime minister, told reporters: “No one can prevent the completion of this building. If they are powerful enough, let them come and demolish it.”
Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reports that the new palace is “set to cost more than half a billion Turkish Lira, likening the gargantuan complex to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s People’s Palace or Hassan al-Sabbah’s castle of Alamut.”
Meanwhile, the paper reports that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is to move into downtown Ankara’s Cankaya Palace, which was once home to the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Critics widely suggest the new presidential building is striking evidence of Erdogan’s increasing dominance after more than ten years as Turkey’s political leader. Opposition parties say that the palace was built without permission, with CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu vowing to call the building the “Unlicensed Palace,” not “Ak Saray.”
The ‘Telegraph’ says that Erdogan served as prime minister for 11 years before ascending to the presidency. Despite the fact that the ruling party (AK) does not hold the two thirds majority in parliament required to amend the constitution, his ambition is to turn this traditionally ceremonial post into the new centre of power in Turkey.
Unlike all previous presidents, Erdogan routinely chairs cabinet meetings. He has also spent £115 million on a new presidential jet, designed and supplied by Airbus to his own specification.