The Presidential Complex (Turkish: Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi) is the presidential residence of the Republic of Turkey. The complex is located in the Beştepe neighborhood of Ankara, inside the Atatürk Forest Farm.
|Town or city||Ankara|
|Opened||29 October 2014|
|Known for||Presidential use|
|Number of rooms||1,150|
In accordance with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's "New Turkey" concept, it was envisaged that the Çankaya Presidential Mansion would become the prime ministerial compound and the president would move to the newly-built palace. This occurred soon after the June 2015 general election, when the palace was officially made the residence of the President of Turkey. It was formally inaugurated as the official residence of the president by Erdoğan on the country's Republic Day, 29 October 2014.
Before receiving the name of Külliye, meaning "complex", typically a religious complex centered on a mosque, the palace was referred to as Ak Saray (meaning "white palace"), also used as a critical reference to Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), with which Erdoğan has kept close ties despite having been constitutionally required to be politically neutral. Due to its construction being barred by the courts yet continuing regardless, it is regularly referred to by some opposition politicians and supporters as the "Kaç-Ak Saray", the word kaçak in Turkish meaning "illegal". Erdoğan proposed to call it Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi, referring to the Millet Mosque in the complex. This was formally adopted as the complex's new name on 3 July 2015. The building cost was double the initial estimate of more than US$600 million.
On 10 July 2015, the Turkish Council of State found that the construction of the palace violated the law and ordered it to be vacated. However, the Presidency, citing paragraph 2 of Article 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, has stated that the decision is ultra-vires. Paragraph 2 of Article 105 states, "No appeal shall be made to any judicial authority, including the Constitutional Court, against the decisions and orders signed by the President of the Republic on his/her own initiative". The Turkish Constitution mandates a strict separation of powers between the Executive, Judiciary and Parliament. As such the day-to-day management, logistics, and expenditure of the Turkish Presidency are not open to judicial and/or parliamentary scrutiny due to its independence.
The palace was initially constructed to serve as the office of the Prime Minister. After Erdoğan won the August 2014 presidential election, he announced on 2 September 2014 that the building will be used as the new seat of the presidency. The building was constructed inside the Atatürk Forest Farm (AOÇ), which was established by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1925. In 1937, President Atatürk, acting as the Mareşal, donated the farm to the state. In 1992 the farm was designated a first-degree protected site meaning that no construction should be done within its territory. On 4 March 2014, an administrative court in Ankara ordered the suspension of the palace's construction. The suspension order was supported by the Council of State on 13 March. Erdoğan ignored the decision, saying "Let them tear it down if they can. They ordered suspension, yet they can't stop the construction of this building. I'll be opening it; I'll be moving in and using it".
Finance minister Mehmet Şimşek, quoted by Turkey's Hürriyet newspaper, said the construction cost of the palace would be 1.37bn ($615m), most of which had already been spent, but another $135m had been budgeted for it in 2015. In December 2014, Turkey's state-owned Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) refused to divulge the actual construction cost on the grounds that releasing the information could hurt Turkey's economy, citing Article 17 of the Law on the Provision of Information. Tezcan Candan, head of the Turkish Chamber of Architects' Ankara branch, said the final cost could be over 5 billion lira.
Pope Francis was the first head of state hosted at the new Presidential Palace on 28 November 2014, during his visit to Turkey. Turkish architects had called on the Pope not to attend the ceremony at the "unlicensed" Ak Saray. On 1 December 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the second foreign guest welcomed with a ceremony in front of the new palace. A welcoming ceremony for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 12 January 2015 attracted controversy after President Erdoğan was pictured flanked by members of the presidential guard dressed in historic warrior costumes. Intended to represent the military costumes of 16 Turkic states, comments about their historical inaccuracy resulted in a viral social media joke about the guards at the presidential palace. The dean of Pamukkale University's Faculty of Medicine, Professor Hasan Herken, who tweeted "Do you know which Turkic state that man wearing a bathrobe represents?", later resigned his position after receiving death threats and protests by local youth branches of the AK Party.
The compound consists of the main building and two support buildings to be used for meetings with visiting heads of state and dignitaries. It covers an area of 300,000 m2 (3,200,000 sq ft). Inspired by Seljuk architecture, the new Presidential Palace has at least 1,150 rooms, additional guesthouses, a botanical garden, a situation room with satellite and military communications systems, bunkers able to withstand biological, nuclear and chemical weapons attack, a park and a congress center. The complex employs high security measures with additional insulation against wiretapping. To prevent the planting of bugs, one of the offices in the palace has no electrical outlets.
Construction of the new presidential compound has yet to be completed, including a new residence for the president's family with an estimated 250 rooms, a 4,000-person capacity mosque, and a culture centre.
The Presidential Palace compound is said to contain a top secret special operations command and control centre housed in a secure bunker. The centre has a 143 screen visual command centre which correlates data obtained from UAVs, MOBESE CCTV, TV and 3G transmissions from all 81 provinces of Turkey. The Gendarmerie, Disasters and Emergencies Management Directorate, the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), Turkish Armed Forces and MIT can provide live feeds to the Presidential Command Centre. All data is archived in two special supercomputer servers to enable intelligence agencies to track back the paths of suspects. The Palace C4I system can target, track and follow individuals based on biometrics and any 2D image of the target being uploaded into the system.
The government has been criticised for the presidential palace due to its high cost and lavish furnishings, and it continues to be a top agenda item in domestic politics, with opposition parties and non-governmental organizations blasting Erdoğan for wasting the nation's resources. Opposition parties have ramped up their objection to Turkey's presidential palace, set to cost more than half a billion US dollars, likening the gargantuan complex to Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu’s People's Palace or Hassan-i Sabbah’s castle of Alamut. In addition, reports in the media have alleged large-scale corruption during the construction process, suggesting that the construction company made profits exceeding 1,000 percent and violated regulations set by the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning.
The cost of the imported window glass is more than TL 700 million, according to the Ankara branch of the Chamber of Architects. The figure, based on estimates provided by glass suppliers on the cost of glass with similar qualities, is about half of the total official cost of the entire palace, TL 1.37 billion. There was also controversy due to the extensive use of imported marble at Euro 3,000 per square meter. According to a statement released by the Ankara branch of the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects' Chambers (TMMOB), Bizassa marble imported from Italy will be used to decorate pools, bathhouses, saunas, and spas within the palace. The presidential palace had a natural gas bill of TL 2.4 million between October 2014 and May 2015, according to records released to the public. With an average natural gas expenditure of TL 344,000 a month, Ak Saray's monthly bill is the equivalent of the monthly salary of 363 minimum wage workers. TMMOB figures claim that 63 elevators and a number of carpets in the palace cost a total of TL 31.2 million, while gold-inlaid glasses found at the palace reportedly cost TL 1,000 each. Critics call the lavishness a waste of budgetary funds while Erdoğan has shrugged off the criticism, insisting that the palace, which he said will be called the "Presidential Külliye," boosts Turkey's reputation.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Presidential Palace of Turkey.|
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