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An Homage To Himself, Erdogan's Own Personal Versailles

At 1,000 rooms and a $350 million pricetag, the vast new palace the Turkish president has had built for himself is both illegal and a bold expression of his own power and that of the "new Turkey."

Erdogan and his wife during the celebration of his presidential victory, on Aug. 10.
Erdogan and his wife during the celebration of his presidential victory, on Aug. 10.
Boris Kálnoky

ISTANBUL — If he had a choice today, Sun King Louis XIV might actually prefer to be the Turkish rather than the French head of state. Only a few buildings since Versailles have offered as salient an expression of a sitting leader's claims to power as the new official residence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Though there was also the "People's House" of erstwhile Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the villainous leader was executed before the colossal construction was finished. By comparison to "Genius of the Carpathians" Ceausescu, who laid claim to 3,000 rooms in Bucharest, the ruler of the "new Turkey" is relatively modest with a mere 1,000 rooms.

The best thing about the $350 million new palace, to be inaugurated Oct. 29, is its name, Aksaray, which means "pure, white palace." Those who have leveled corruption allegations at the government would hardly call it a stronghold of virtue. And never mind the occasional nasty tricks the government plays on its critics. The Turkish newspaper Gazeteport published pictures showing just how grand the new compound is.

Of course, the entire construction and massive public expenditure is illegal. It was built without permission in the Atatürk Forest, on land that is under both monument and nature protection. This violation is symbolic: Erdogan is above Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. And obviously above the law too.

"Just let them try to tear it down," Erdogan said as one court after another ordered construction stopped. "I will inaugurate the building, and I will move in."

From the start, the palace was conceived as a place Erdogan would live. Construction began in 2011 when he was still prime minister. Even if, against all expectations, Erdogan had lost the presidential election in August, he still would have moved into the palace as prime minister.

The president, who unlike the prime minister does not constitutionally possess particular authority, will enjoy greater security than Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The assumption is that at Aksaray there are bomb-proof rooms as well as areas safe from bio and chemical attacks. What's not clear is whether Erdogan is also safe from telekinesis there. His chief advisor Yigil Bulut is of the opinion that the dark forces of this world want to assassinate the leader of the Turks using telekinesis or "the supposed ability to move objects at a distance by mental power or other non-physical means."

It is assumed that Erdogan will not claim all 1,000 rooms for his private use. Various offices are due to be set up there from which he could govern, officials say. That's all the more interesting, as the constitution gives the president no powers to govern. But details like that won't stop Erdogan, who has generously told the prime minister he will "always help" him run the country.

In terms of its architectural style, Erdogan says the palace is intended to show that Ankara "is a Seljuq capital." Historically, that is sheer nonsense: The Seljuqs, to some extent the predecessors of the Ottomans, never ruled from Ankara. But what's history? Ankara's history "begins with the AKP Justice and Development Party," says Mayor Mehli Gökcek, an Erdogan loyalist. So of course the party of Erdogan should be able to do is re-write city history to suit itself.

But all this nevertheless demonstrates what's on Erdogan's mind. The Seljuqs were there before the Ottomans. In 1071, a Seljuq victory established the Turks in what had been Byzantine (Greek) Anatolia. Erdogan wants to create a leadership position for himself that ties him in with the old Seljuqs.

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The Trudeau-Modi Row Reveals Growing Right-Wing Bent Of India's Diaspora

Western governments will not be oblivious to the growing right-wing activism among the diaspora and the efforts of the BJP and Narendra Modi's government to harness that energy for political support and stave off criticism of India.

The Trudeau-Modi Row Reveals Growing Right-Wing Bent Of India's Diaspora

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 Summit in New Delhi on Sept. 9

Sushil Aaron


NEW DELHICanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has brought Narendra Modi’s exuberant post-G20 atmospherics to a halt by alleging in parliament that agents of the Indian government were involved in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian national, in June this year.

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said. The Canadian foreign ministry subsequently expelled an Indian diplomat, who was identified as the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, in Canada. [On Thursday, India retaliated through its visa processing center in Canada, which suspended services until further notice over “operational reasons.”]

Trudeau’s announcement was immediately picked up by the international media and generated quite a ripple across social media. This is big because the Canadians have accused the Indian government – not any private vigilante group or organisation – of murder in a foreign land.

Trudeau and Canadian state services seem to have taken this as seriously as the UK did when the Russian émigré Alexander Litvinenko was killed, allegedly on orders of the Kremlin. It is extraordinarily rare for a Western democracy to expel a diplomat from another democracy on these grounds.

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