Presidential residence to change after 91 years

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will stay in the new residential buildings located inside the Atatürk Forest Farm (AOÇ) in Ankara, bringing an end to a Turkish state tradition, which has seen every Turkish president stay in the Çankaya Presidential Mansion.

The Turkish president and prime minister will move to new residences for the first time in 91 years after Erdoğan decided to not stay in the Çankaya Presidential Mansion after being elected the country’s 12th president Aug. 10.

Erdoğan will stay in the recently built residence inside the AOÇ, while the Çankaya Presidential Mansion will host Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s family.

Erdoğan told reporters he would stay in the Çankaya Presidential Mansion until the construction on his new residence in the AOÇ was complete.

“I’ll continue to reside in the Çankaya Palace for a while,” Erdoğan told reporters before heading on a trip to Azerbaijan. “And then, as the president’s office, we are planning to move into the newly-built building” initially planned for the prime minister. “According to the plan, our prime minister will move to the president’s residence,” he said, referring to Çankaya.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said Erdoğan’s decision might be part of the changes he wanted to make during his presidency term, adding the Çankaya mansion has characteristics similar to a museum.

‘Respect to the traditions’

Erdoğan’s decision to not stay at the Çankaya Mansion drew a critical reaction from main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. “Societies are dragged into chaos when they break their traditions. Respecting traditions should not be seen as conservatism. Traditions are values brewed by the people over many years. Loyalty to these traditions is essential for a healthy society,” Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) told daily Hürriyet on Sept. 3.

Meanwhile, main opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Ankara deputy Özcan Yeniçeri criticized Erdoğan’s decision. “Erdoğan wants to compare himself with Atatürk. He wants to say ‘there is Atatürk in the construction of the Republic and I am there, as well,’” Yeniçeri said.

The vast new structure where Erdoğan wants to move is being built on the outskirts of Ankara and is controversial, as hundreds of trees were cut down in one of the best preserved green spaces in the city.

It has 1,000 rooms with a total surface area of 200,000 square meters and the building itself is 40,000 square meters.

The construction began a year ago and is nearing completion. Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk moved into the Çankaya residence in the early 1920s and it has been the base of the Turkish presidency ever since.

The post of president in Turkey has been a largely ceremonial role in recent years, but Erdoğan has vowed to transform the position and exert strong executive power.

Moving out of the Çankaya palace would be another strong signal of Erdoğan’s determination to be a different kind of president.

Atatürk liked a two-store house in the area and allocated it for his use on the grounds that its owner
would be a Turkish General Staff, as well as a tenant in the house. The house began being called “Çankaya” after Atatürk moved there during his presidency.

In the 1930s, Austrian architect Prof. Clemens Holzmeister, who lived in Turkey during World War II, was assigned by Atatürk to rebuild the house.

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