Ankara's municipal orchestra played "Rah, Rah, Rasputin, Lower of the Russian Queen" at the opening session. The delegation with rose water. And the three-day meeting was punctuated by fist fights between the party youth's left and right wings.
But finally Premier Bulent Ecevit, a moderate, reemerged from the biannual congress of the Republican People's Party this weekend as Turkey's unrivaled leader.
His centrist supporters beat back a combined attempt by the party's left-and right-wing factions to dilute Ecevit's one-man leadership by creating a 41-man policy-making body. His opponents did not bother to contest Ecevit's choice of senior party administrators and finally closed ranks behind the swarthy intellectual to reelect him party chairman for another two years.
The victory came as a welcome boost to Ecevit's faltering political fortunes. In the 16 months since the poet-politician came to power to shouts of "Ecevit our hope," his leadership has been attacked from all sides.
The left accuses Ecevit, 52, of breaking his promise to broaden democratic freedoms.
"There are more trade unionists in jail today than there ever were under [former conservative premier Suleyman] Demirel," said a spokesman for the Progressive Confederation of Trade Unions, whose leaders were arrested for threatening to stage a banned May Day demonstration.
The right accuses Ecevit of moving Turkey too close to the Soviet Union.
"With present policies, which are weakening private enterprise and pulling the nation away from the West, Turkey can receive neither the necessary Western aid nor foreign investment to overcome its economic crisis," claimed a full-page advertisement placed in Turkey's major newspapers by the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association last week.
Everyone is sick of the skyrocketing prices - a loaf of bread costs twice as much now as 12 months ago - the chronic shortages - it can take days of waiting to obtain a tank of gasoline - and the unrelenting political violence - 23 persons were killed in two days last week despite widespread martial law.
Even in parliament, Ecevit's support is slipping. Three recent defections from his Republican People's Party have reduced his majority to six, including 12 independents.
"We had to go through an Ecevit experience, but now we need a strong leader," says a Turkish industrialist, whose factories are running at less than 50 percent capacity because of lack of imported raw materials and spare parts.
"Ecevit remains in power through default," a Western diplomat said. "At the moment, there just is not another alternative."
The armed forces, which twice in the past 20 years have intervened in Turkish politics, appear determined to stay out of the current problems.
Extreme leftist and rightist terror groups, which seek to topple the government by force, are engaged in deadly vendetta and have little popular support.
The conservative opposition does not have the parliamentary strength to topple the Ecevit government.
And, as the party congress proved, no one within the party can replace him.
New national elections, which might give Ecevit or Demirel a more decisive mandate to take the tough measures needed to save the economy and end street violence, appear equally unlikely.Elections are not due until 1981 and a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which neither has, is necessary to advance them.
"Many people have tried to draw parallels between Turkey and Iran, but unfortunately there are none," says a Turkish public relations man. "Here we have a democracy. You can't just chop off the cancer with one stroke; it will continue to fester."
Turks are hopeful, however, as representatives of the 17 nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are scheduled to meet Paris later this week to discuss furnishing $600 million of emergency aid to Turkey. The International Monetary Fund also reportedly is ready to allow the Turks to resume drawing down on $310 million credit frozen since December.
The new loans would not only help get Turkey's troubled economy moving again, but also would help quiet Ecevit's critics, at least temporarily.