Vice Chair of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) claims Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the reconstruction of his presidential summer palace in Marmaris.
The palace has been under construction since 2017 and Erdogan allegedly ordered demolition of some of its already built parts with which he was not satisfied.
Muharrem Erkek based his claims on an unnamed source in a report by critical daily Cumhuriyet on Wednesday.
Erkek raised the matter in the Turkish Parliament. The Cumhuriyet’s report came after Erkek put forward a written parliamentary inquiry to Vice President Fuat Oktay questioning the detail of the alleged reconstruction.
“How much will the demolition and reconstruction of the palace’s parts cost? Which sources will the authorities use to meet the expenses of the reconstruction work?” asked the CHP lawmaker.
Erkek argued that if the allegations are true, the term austerity only means a recommendation for citizens, while it is not related to the representatives of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In the beginning, the summer palace construction was initiated as maintenance work, on the four-room guest house belonging to the period of the 8th Turkish President Turgut Ozal. It, however, has turned into a luxurious palace at the behest of Erdogan and his family, according to some critics.
According to Erkek, the AKP government has spent 330 million liras ($57.6 million) on the palace so far, besides an additional 30 million liras ($5.2 million) in 2019 allegedly for reconstruction.
The palace, located at the Okluk Bay in the southwestern coastal district of Marmaris, has been under severe criticism in terms of environmental destruction and deforestation, as around 50,000 trees had been cut for its construction, and a filling area of 10,966 meters square had been filled with 120,000 tons of sand carried by vessels from 735 kilometers away in an effort to create a beach there, according to a report by daily Birgun in June 2018.
At the time, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report had also warned of some loss of habitat due to the filling activities.
Another report in May 2018 about deforestation was banned by a Turkish court under the pretext of insulting the President.
The preserved status of the palace’s land was allegedly dropped five years ago in a bid to provide a legal ground for the construction.
White Palace: Symbol of Turkey’s prestige
Erdogan’s presidential palace complex in Ankara nicknamed Ak Saray, or White Palace, also drew rebuff among his dissidents with its 1,100 rooms and an official price tag of $615 million. Critics suggest the value is actually much higher.
On the other end, Erdogan thinks the palace is a symbol of Turkey’s importance in the region and beyond, calling it a ‘show of the country’s prestige’.
At the time, the Ankara chapter of the Chamber of Architects sued to halt the palace construction and won a court ruling saying the construction violated forest protection laws.
However, Erdogan ignored the ruling inviting anyone who has ‘the power and the courage [to] come and demolish this building’.
Besides its constructional cost, the palace has been spending millions even daily, according to media reports.
According to a Sayistay’s report released in 2017, the palace’s spending per day was more than 1.8 million liras ($300,000).
This excludes the discretionary funds used by the president. The funds are allocated to the president to use without approval from the Turkish Parliament or any other state institution.