After taking on freedom of the press by suing a media outlet, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took on freedom of speech among his political rivals Tuesday by suing Turkey's main opposition leader over his insinuations that Erdogan's massive palace has gold-plated toilet seats.
Erdogan is seeking 100,000 Turkish Liras (nearly $37,500) from Republican People's Party (CHP) head Kemal Kilicdaroglu for "slander and lies" that he claimed violated his honor, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. Turkey is gearing up for elections this week, likely fueling Erdogan's reaction.
The Turkish president is also appealing to a court to have surveillance installed at the palace in a showy attempt to disprove Kilicdaroglu's statements about the gold toilets.
One such statement was made during an election rally in Ankara on Sunday, in which the CHP head said, "I’m calling on my citizens who voted for the ruling party in the past: I don’t think like them, I’m not eager for a palace, I’m not eager for a golden toilet seat, I’m not eager to hit the jackpot; I work only and only for this country’s beautiful people."
"Gentlemen in Ankara, palaces have been built for you, planes bought, Mercedes cars purchased … golden seats have been bought, that's how you use the toilet," Kilicdaroglu told a rally in the Aegean city of Izmir on the same day.
Erdogan lost no time in jumping on the line, inviting the CHP leader to visit his palace on the same day and saying if a golden toilet was found he would resign.
Changing his line slightly on Monday, Erdogan again invited Kilicdaroglu to visit the palace and called on him to resign if he couldn't find a golden toilet seat.
Taking on an insulting tone, Erdogan also said Monday, "hey Kilicdaroglu, since when have you been visiting the toilets of the Beştepe Külliye (presidential palace)? Did you clean them and that’s how you learned that there were golden toilets seats?"
Kilicdaroglu responded, saying "I kiss the eyes of those toilet cleaners, those laborers who provide for their children. This answer is enough."
He refused the invitation to visit Erdogan's palace, which critics say was built on protected land in violation of court rulings.
The CHP leader also explained that his gold-plated toilet reference referred not to Erdogan but to a provincial governor who in May raised a furor with an alleged gold-plated toilet seat in his bathroom. The governor denied the claims, saying it was actually chrome in a golden yellow color.
"Photographs of gold-plated toilet seat were in newspapers. If a public servant is having a gold-plated toilet seat during the term of this ruling party, am I responsible for this?," said Kilicdaroglu. "Will I not call him to account for it? I didn’t say ‘palace,’ or this and that. But I said something clearly: If gentlemen in Ankara are getting gold-plated toilet seats done, somebody in this country should think about this."
He added that Erdogan "took it personally."