Faruk Koca, the owner of the house where Erdoğan lived during his 12-year term as prime minister said the following words; "Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not have any aspiration for power and luxury. Although he has been at the height of his political career for 20 years, he has always lived in neighborhoods where 90-95 percent of Turkey's population lives. His house in Keçiören has been a residence for workers, government officials and artisans as well. Erdoğan has an intimate personality and, throughout his life, he has lived among and with the public. I do not believe that Erdoğan is longing to live there [new presidential palace] for his own benefit, this is not Erdoğan's lifestyle. It is important in terms of showing the position and strength of the state. The things that are said are all about hostility against Erdoğan, as they are inconsiderate and futile expressions verbalized for the sake of criticism." The same Erdoğan has recently been presented as "ambitious, dissolute and a power enthusiast" in the publications of the Saudi Arabian monarchy-backed Al-Arabiya, theocratic Iranian-backed Al-Monitor and Western media outlets.
The Republic of Turkey was a state which rejected the legacy of the Ottomans and even put historical works up for sale. It strictly closed off itself from surrounding geographies and tried to remove the Islamic tissue which it thought was incompatible with secularism. Apart from the rules of former prime ministers Adnan Menderes and Turgut Özal, there was no major break in this tyrannical line until the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power.
Today, however, the country is ruled by an administration which embraces its Ottoman past and Republican values at the same time thinking that a secular state structure does not require suppressing devout Muslims and Islamic practices. It also develops sound foreign policies with surrounding geographies without giving up its national identity. Once economic development is also added to this strong vision, the patterns of the old state are too tight for new Turkey to fit in physically.
For example, the current Prime Ministry headquarters is located in a busy street and official welcoming ceremonies for foreign guests are almost held at the heart of the street, at the expense of fluid road traffic conditions. The new presidential headquarters has buildings dedicated to properly welcoming and hosting foreign dignitaries without disturbing the public, putting an end to this physical inadequacy. So, a major part of this much-discussed 1,000-room new presidential palace is designed for this purpose. Moreover, various state institutions, which were previously built in a disorderly fashion on a decentralized structure, will be allowed to come together under this building. So, a large number of these 1,000 rooms will be allocated to the state bureaucracy.
The old presidential palace in Çankaya belonged to the Armenian Kasapyan family, who had to leave the country during the Armenian deportation in 1915. When Mustafa Kemal liked this mansion during his visit to Ankara, it was assigned to him and still stands today with additional buildings added to the original.
The current presidential palace is a compound, currently in its final stages, built using the money of the treasury of the Republic of Turkey and officially owned by the state, making Erdoğan the tenant of this building. But, if he wins the presidential race once again in 2019, he may continue to be the tenant for another five years. Perhaps, this entire clamor about the palace may target the possibility of the prolongation of Erdoğan's tenancy.
About the author
Hilal Kaplan is a journalist and columnist. Kaplan is also board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey.