Bahçeli curious about president’s next ‘costume at his palace’

Bahçeli curious about president’s next ‘costume at his palace’

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has joined a popular debate on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s dramatic remake of his palace ceremonial guard, saying he is "curious about Erdoğan’s next costume."

“I don’t think it has any aspect to be commented on,” Bahçeli said on Jan. 13, when asked about the Jan. 12 welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace, during which spear-carrying guardsmen, warriors bedecked in chainmail, gleaming golden helmets and even a few fake moustaches were on display.

“But I do wonder about one issue; I wonder which costume Mr. Erdoğan will be seen in one day at the palace?” Bahçeli said.

The brief remarks by the MHP head, who is known for his surprise humorous comments despite his generally stern attitude, appear to have been a reference to Erdoğan’s perceived ambitions to govern the country under his one-man rule, as he is accused by critics of seeking to run the country like an Ottoman sultan.

Upon his arrival in the Turkish capital city of Ankara for an official visit, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas was greeted with an official ceremony at the new presidential premises, widely known as Ak Saray (White Palace), where he shook hands with Erdoğan at the main staircase of the controversial palace. Standing behind were 16 warriors dressed in period armor, carrying spears, shields and clutching fearsome-looking swords.

However, for another opposition leader, the ceremony reflected the "oppressive policies of the government and the president."

Referring to a contentious government-led “homeland security package,” a bill yet to be adopted by parliament, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Figen Yüksekdağ said the package is actually a “palace security law,” addressing her party’s parliamentary group.

“They are not drafting this package for public security and society’s security; they are putting this oppressive and antidemocratic law in front of us for the security of their palace and their rule. You cannot provide security of that palace by lining up theatrical soldiers from 16 Turkish states next to you. If these oppressive policies and anti-democratic approaches go on, then neither the soldiers of the 16 Turkish states, nor the current militaristic structure, will be sufficient for protecting your sultanate,” Yüksekdağ said.

The 16 warriors each represented one of the 16 empires of Turkish history, dating back to well before the Turkic conquest of Asia Minor, where modern-day Turkey is located.

These past chapters of Turkic history include the great Hunnic Empire, founded around 200 BC, through to the Seljuk Empire, the Mughal Empire, and right up to the Ottoman Empire, which was dissolved in the 1920s with the foundation of the Turkish Republic.

These 16 empires are also symbolized in the 16 stars of the official seal of the Turkish presidency, which has been given a new prominence since Erdoğan moved to the office.