Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under fire for constructing a $600M, 1,000 room palace for himself in Ankara. As the Hurriyet Daily News reports, the megalomanaical project is drawing comparisons to those of dictators and kings:
Opposition parties have ramped up their objection to Turkey’s newly inaugurated presidential palace, set to cost more than half a billion Turkish Liras, likening the gargantuan complex to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu’s People’s Palace or Hassan al-Sabbah’s castle of Alamut.
Traditionally, the Prime Minister has lived in the smaller Çankaya Palace, former residence of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in downtown Ankara. In a fitting symbol of the new order in Turkey, Erdogan yielded Çankaya to his nominal successor, PM Ahmet Davutoğlu, but then built the new palace that dwarfs it, which has drawn the nickname “Ak Saray” – “the White House.”But this criticism has not come without pushback. As the Financial Times reports, there are legitimate defenses of the massive palace, which was built over protected forest and dwarfs the White House. The President and his supporters point out a few:
Speaking before embarking on a trip to Turkmenistan, he said detractors of the palace were unproductive remnants of the “old Turkey” and argued that the new palace’s more remote location would mean fewer clogged Ankara streets and less congestion.“If it is a waste, then the US, the UK and Germany should be delighted that it is damaging the Turkish economy, but they are freaking out. Why?” [Ankara Mayor] Mr Gokcek tweeted. “The White Palace is now being compared with the US, Russian and UK leaders’ palaces . . . and it is crushing . . . Foreigners are suffering from a[n inferiority] complex.”
If this were merely the self-indulgence of a dictator in some minor satrapy, it could be cause for comedy. But coming from the ambitious leader of a country the size and importance of Turkey, the signals of a lack of proportion don’t bode well for laughs.