Turkey's finance minister has come under criticism for defending government spending of $1.3 billion on luxury cars and other vehicles for officials as "peanuts."

Mehmet Simsek made the remark last week as he tried to justify a move by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who promised to provide an armored Mercedes to the country's top Muslim cleric. The cleric had earlier returned such a vehicle, following public uproar over the extravagance.

Simsek said the sum was "peanuts" compared to Turkey's budget.

Addressing crowds at election rallies ahead of Turkey's June 7 elections, outraged opposition party leaders said Sunday the money could have been spent to improve pensions or to aid Palestinians.

Erdogan has himself been criticized for moving into a 1,150-room palace that opponents say was constructed despite a court injunction.