Turkey's Erdogan sues opposition chief over 'gold toilet seat' claim

Agence France-Presse
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses inside the new Ak Saray presidential palace (White Palace) on the outskirts of Ankara on Oct. 29, 2014.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the main opposition chief for claiming his vast palace had gold-plated toilet seats, in an increasingly acrimonious row over the alleged lavatory luxuries ahead of June 7 elections.

Erdogan's lawyer Muammer Cemaloglu is seeking $37,300 in compensation for slander from Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.

Erdogan's 1,150-room palace, which was built at a cost of around $615 million, has been condemned by opponents as an authoritarian excess.

Kilicdaroglu, who repeatedly attacked Erdogan for his profligacy in the run-up to the parliamentary polls, claimed on Saturday that the presidential palace had golden toilet seats.

Erdogan, who moved to the palace after being elected president in August 2014 following 11 years as prime minister, challenged Kilicdaroglu to search the complex for the rumored seats.

Erdogan then went even further, asking him whether he knew about the gold-plated toilet seats in the palace because he had cleaned them.

"Hey, Kilicdaroglu, when did you tour the toilets (of the palace) and clean them and thus found out that they were gold-plated?" Erdogan said at a rally in eastern Turkey.

Kilicdaroglu responded to Erdogan in an interview with private CNN Turk television late Monday, saying: "I kiss the eyes of those toilet cleaners, those laborers who provide for their children. This answer should be enough."

He also turned down Erdogan's invitation and said, "I don't have any business at palaces, let alone with golden toilet seats. I know Erdogan's lust for gold, dollars and euros."

The Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects' Chambers, which closely monitors the spending on the palace, joined the debate on Tuesday and said that the toilets at the palace cost up to $3,700 each.

Built in a suburb of Ankara, the palace covers an area of some 2.15 million square feet — more than 30 times the size of the White House, bigger even than France's majestic Palace of Versailles.

Erdogan is hoping his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) wins a two-thirds parliamentary majority in Sunday's election. A majority of that magnitude would allow him to change the constitution and boost the powers of the president.

But polls suggest that far from winning a two-thirds majority, the AKP may even fail to win a simple majority.