That's rich! Turkish taxpayers pay $710m for new palace
RECEP Tayyip Erdogan has faced accusations before of acting like a "sultan" - never more so than when he was made Turkey's first elected president after 12 years as its prime minister.
But those claims have been given new vigour after it was revealed that he has built himself a palace that is bigger than the White House or Buckingham Palace, occupies more than 1.6 million square feet of land and cost almost $750 million.
Quoted in Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper, finance minister Mehmet Simsek revealed that the majority of the new 1.37 billion lira (AUD$710m) budget had already been spent on the residence from public coffers.
A further $158 million has been allocated for the Ak Saray - or White Palace - in the coming year, which will take it to almost double the estimated cost to Turkish taxpayers.
The palace has 1,000 rooms, advanced security systems, makes lavish use of marble and even has silk wallpaper in the bathrooms, it has been reported.
It is bigger even than the vast Palace of Versailles in France, and its use by Mr Erdogan will see the smaller Cankaya Palace occupied by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara Aside from the vast expense, the White Palace has proved particularly controversial in Turkey because it was built on land set aside as a nature reserve.
Sitting on a forested hill overlooking Ankara, its construction breaches court orders and has invited criticism from green campaigners.
Quoted in The Telegraph, the leader of the opposition Republican People's party Kemal Kilicdaroglu said:
"The so-called sultan has built this for himself in a country where three million people are without work.
You cut down hundreds of trees to build yourself this palace."
Erdogan was pictured touring his new palace in August, and at the end of last month hosted its first official function marking Turkey's republic day.
Officials have also been quoted as saying other properties in the presidential portfolio are to be renovated next year, including Istanbul's Huber Palace and a guest house on the Aegean coast, the BBC reported.
An additional $213 million will also be spent on a new Airbus A330-200 to be used as the presidential jet, Mr Simsek revealed.