In what is seen as a significant blow for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s main opposition party has claimed big election victories in the main cities of Istanbul and Ankara, the BBC reports. 

Erdogan had hoped to regain control of the cities less than a year after he claimed a third term as president.

Ekrem Imamoglu, who first won Istanbul in 2019, scored a second victory for the secular opposition Istanbul’s Republican People’s Party (CHP). 

The BBC reports that while Erdogan had vowed a new era in Turkey’s megacity of almost 16 million people, the incumbent mayor secured more than 50% of the vote, defeating the president’s AK Party candidate by more than 11 points and almost one million votes.

In the capital Ankara, opposition mayor Mansur Yavas was so far ahead of his rival on 60% that he declared victory when less than half the votes were in. Significantly, the CHP also seized control of Turkey’s fourth-biggest city Bursa and Balikesir in the north-west, and retained control of Izmir, Adana and the resort of Antalya.