ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday inaugurated a mosque on the grounds of his gigantic palace complex and opened it to the public in an apparent effort to stave off more criticism over his spending.
Erdogan, who has been accused of squandering state resources by building the grandiose 1,150-room presidential palace, dedicated the mosque to the people at the opening ceremony, naming it the “Bestepe People’s Mosque.”
The new mosque, with four 60 meter-high (200 feet) minarets, can accommodate up to 3,000 worshippers and is one of Ankara’s largest. Erdogan described its design as a fusion of architectures from the Ottoman and Seljuk eras.
The president has dismissed criticism over his expenditure and has recently moved away from calling the presidential premise a “palace,” using the term “presidential complex” instead. He insists that the complex belongs to the people and that he is its “temporary occupant.” Officials have said that a congress hall and one of Turkey’s biggest libraries, which are under construction at the site, will also be open to the public.
The ruling party, founded by Erdogan, lost its parliamentary majority in last month’s elections, in a blow to Erdogan’s ambitions to turn the largely ceremonial presidency into an executive post.
Opposition parties had made the palace a theme of their election campaigns, forcing him on the defensive and to even deny that it had gold-plated toilet seats. In a television interview, he also justified the construction by saying his old office when he was prime minister was infested with cockroaches.
Last year, Erdogan shrugged off criticism that the complex was illegally built on protected land saying: “Let them knock it down if they have the power.”