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A Political Quake in Turkey as Erdogan’s Party Loses in His Home Base of Support

Category: Europe,World

Ms. Kocoglu said she and her colleagues understood within an hour of the closing of polls Sunday night that they were watching Turkey’s most momentous change since Mr. Erdogan took power. Even the most remote areas of the Istanbul metropolitan area showed a defeat for Mr. Erdogan’s mayoral candidate.

As of Monday night, results from the High Election Council had still not been fully released and Mr. Erdogan’s party had not conceded defeat in Istanbul. But the tally showed the opposition candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, ahead with 99 percent of the votes counted.

The Republican People’s Party, long criticized for a lack of organization, for once was well prepared. Mr. Imamoglu, 49, a former district mayor, mobilized thousands of volunteers to observe the election at every ballot box in the greater metropolitan area and record the count on a specially designed application, giving the party its own independent tabulation.

“We were able to compare our numbers with theirs,” Ms. Kocoglu said.

A decisive moment came at 9 p.m. Sunday when Mr. Erdogan gave his first speech of the evening, claiming victory for the AKP overall in the municipal district elections. The election commission suddenly stopped releasing election results for Istanbul, as did the semiofficial Anadolu news agency, which is widely followed on election nights as the source favored by the government for results.

The president’s camp had already seen which way the vote was going and had stopped the count, said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara director for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research institute. “They stopped it to think what they could do,” he said. There was even discussion of some kind of intervention, he said.

“We were very afraid,” Ms. Kocoglu said. She recalled several elections when the election commission had stopped releasing details in the count, only to resume later and show an unlikely jump in favor of the ruling party.

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