Well, that makes Nkandla seem like small change...

2014-11-09 15:01

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A total of 1?000 rooms, expansive corridors, marble floors, underground bunkers and hi-tech defences against cyberattacks and bugging: welcome to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new home.

Erdogan’s 1?000-room complex in the woodland of the country’s capital, Ankara, is set to cost more than $500?million (R5.6?billion) by the end of next year, according to the country’s finance minister.

Ak Saray – the White Palace – is brightly illuminated at night and stands on a hilltop, dominating the skyline on the edge of Ankara, the BBC reported this week.

It covers an area of 200?000m² and includes a three-storey residence for Erdogan and his family.

Reports from Turkey said it was initially planned as a prime ministry. Erdogan was the country’s prime minister from 2003 until he won Turkey’s first popular presidential election in August.

The palace’s columned structure and wide flat roofs echo the Seljuk architecture of the 11th-13th centuries, but local media report that the palace is equipped with underground bunkers and hi-tech defences against cyberattacks and bugging.

Pictures show huge corridors, atriums and floors made of marble.

“The new compound has been built as a maximum efficient living space with the most advanced technical infrastructure?...?The new premises will serve for long years,” presidential general secretary Fahri Kasirga told Parliament’s planning and budget commission.

“Some $432.7?million has been paid for the construction of the new presidential palace as of now and some $135?million will be allocated for the palace in 2015,” Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek was quoted in the Hurriyet Daily News as saying.

The total value of the project was expected to reach $615?million and a new presidential jet would be bought for $185?million, Simsek told the commission.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his sweeping staircase. Picture: Getty Images

The construction of the palace has been controversial from the outset, not least because it is constructed on land bequeathed to the state as a forest farm by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.

Several court orders blocking the project failed to halt construction, infuriating environmentalists who said it added a blemish to one of Ankara’s few remaining green spaces.

Previous presidents used Ataturk’s more modest old palace, but the decision to move comes as Erdogan launches what he has dubbed a New Turkey, in which he has made no secret of his ambitions to amend the Constitution and create a full executive presidential system.

President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home seems modest in comparison to the splendour of the presidential palace of Turkey’s head of state. Picture: Tebogo Letsie

CHP opposition parliamentarian Hursit Gunes said the palace was a clear sign that Erdogan had no intention of waiting to start wielding far greater influence as president.

“He doesn’t listen to court decisions, he doesn’t listen to the Constitution, the president is out of control,” said Gunes.

“I don’t believe the palace is the sign of an emerging country, but of a primitive, underdeveloped one. It’s ridiculous,” he added.

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