It is 50 degrees in the prime minister's house and the electricity is off here, as it is elsewhere in Turkey's capital for four or five hours daily.
The prime minister has a cold, so does the opposition leader, and both were confined to bed for four days last week. The colds come from working in unheated office buildings.
In the capital's most prestigious hotels it takes two sweaters to even begin to keep warm. A large bullet hole in the main door is a stark reminder that the country is plagued by more than economic difficulties.
Turkey is in trouble. Its foreign exchange reserves are so depleted that it cannot afford to import the oil it needs to keep its factories running and its houses warm. Unemployment is soaring to more than 20 percent. Endemic political violence between left and right is escalating to the point that about 2,500 people have been killed in the last two years. The Army has openly threatened to intervene.
Senior diplomats from NATO countries have been urging their governments to extend emergency aid to Turkey, an alliance member, pointing out that the prospect of major turmoil here after Iran and Afghanistan would seriously threaten Western interests in the Middle East. Although the Turkish Army is expected to intervene if the politicians fail, it could not solve the country's problems in the long run.
Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel says it will take a $2 billion infusion of emergency aid to prevent a total collapse.
"Our economy is dying," Demirel said in an interview, and failure by the West to help Turkey on a recovery course would lead to social and political unrest "from which only Communists would benefit."
His government's package of economic austerity measures and reforms would succeed only if Western allies provide aid within the next two months, he said.
"If you have high inflation [70 percent for the past year], if your factories stop, if 1 million trucks are not working, if your foreign currency income has come down to zero, or almost zero, what do you do?" Demirel said.
Demirel's conservative government, has taken a series of sharp measures, including devaluation of the Turkish lira by more than 40 percent and price increases on almost all basic commodities by 50 to 300 percent.
But he stressed that none of this would work without outside aid. "This is the time," he said. "It should be done now, right now, not several months later because it will be too late."
Demirel hinted that he was seriously concerned about recent developments in the region. He spoke about his draconian economic measures as mandatory "purely as a matter of survival."
Underscoring the hard times, neither Demiral nor opposition leader Bulent Ecevit now offer office visitors the customary Turkish coffee, which is one of the many items the country cannot afford to buy. Tea is served instead.
At the core of Turkey's sharply deteriorating situation during the past two years are the huge increases in the cost of oil. Turkey now has exhausted its foreign exchange reserves and has contracted short-term foreign debts to buy oil. It has been unable to service its huge foreign debt, which exceeds $14 billion dollars, and thus is losing its credit.
Unable to purchase oil and materials this winter Turkey's industry is at a near stanstill. Demirel said that in the months before he took power two months ago, 2,444 persons were killed and more than 10,000 others were injured in clashes between leftists and rightists.
The clashes have been increasing in recent weeks with an average of five persons dying daily in terrorist attacks, despite the fact that martial law is in effect in 19 of the country's 67 provinces. The area involved includes Istanbul, Ankara and other population centers. Also under martial law is the eastern third of the country, where roughly 7 million Kurds are living and where unrest has spread as a result of the upsurge of Kurdish nationalism in Iran and Iraq.
Demirel said that apart from the economy, he regarded terrorism as Turkey's most pressing problem. He said more than 1,000 persons have been arrested in the past two months on charges of terrorist activities.
A senior Demirel aide said earlier that the combination of economic dislocation, terrorism and the secessionist threat in the east could lead to an Army takeover. But, he said, the Army would be even less capable of dealing with the situation. "If we fail to obtain Western support, we may become another Afghanistan," he added.
The Turks appeared to be stoical about the incredible hardships that the entire population is experiencing at the moment. With temperatures well below freezing, and in the eastern area plunging down to -40, they live in chilly apartments without water -- lack of energy has stopped the pumps -- and without many necessities.
Although its agriculture has been flourishing, the country finds itself short of money to buy fertilizer for the coming year.
"This is, in my opinion, and I have been 30 years in public life, the gravest economic crisis in Turkey since we set up the republic" in 1923, Demirel said.
In an effort to put Turkey on a sound economic footing, the prime minister said, he advanced a program of reforms and austerity measures last Friday aimed at strengthening a market economy, attracting foreign investments, denationalizing mines, encouraging exports and cutting the benefits enjoyed by state-owned firms with monopolies on both imports and sales. These measures are in addition to the devaluation and the price increases.
Both his supporters and enemies have called the reform package a bold and courageous act going well beyond tinkering with Turkey's economy and distinctly encouraging private enterprise.
But the essential part of the package is an immediate injection of Western hard-currency support that would enable Turkey to buy oil and get the economy moving.
"There is no other way out," Demirel said. "These are not political decisions; we have $450 million and we have to have four times as much to buy petroleum that will revive the economy. And we have to buy $800 million worth of fertilizers because, if we don't, we will have to buy wheat next fall. We have to buy steel and raw materials.
"I hope our friends and allies will show understanding for our situation," he continued. "We have shown that we are ready to tighten our belt to get Turkey out of this mess.I am sure that Turkey will get back on its feet."
The architect of economic measures, Turgut Ozal, left for West Germany yesterday and is scheduled to arrive in Washington Monday for talks with the International Monetary Fund, bankers and U.S. government officials. Ozal is to stop in London and Paris on his way home.
Demirel, who has served as prime minister five times before his current term, was philosophical about his political future.
He said it was absolutely necessary to curb government subsidies to inefficient state-owned firms, "which are going to create a loss of 360 billion lira [about $5 billion] this year, which is one half of our annual budget."
I'll lose popularity," he said. "But the country needs these decisions." He said he was trying to restore a sense of confidence at home and abroad. His objectives, he added, "are not a matter of politics but purely a matter of survival."