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Turkey’s main opposition party made huge gains in the country’s urban areas in local elections Sunday, dealing a blow to longtime President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who wanted to retake control of those areas. 

Per the state-run Anadolu Agency, the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, won the municipalities in nearly half of Turkey’s 81 provinces. 

Erdogan

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets supporters at his party’s Istanbul mayoral candidate Murat Kurum’s campaign rally on March 29, 2024 in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Incumbent Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of CHP, was leading by a by a wide margin in Turkey’s largest city and economic hub, with more than 80% of ballot boxes counted.

Mansur Yavas, the mayor of the capital, Ankara, retained his seat with a stunning 25-point difference over his challenger, according to the results.

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In all, the CHP gained 37% of the votes nationwide, compared to 36% for the president’s party, marking the CHP’s greatest electoral victory since Erdogan came to power two decades ago.

Republican People's Party, or CHP, supporters gather outside the City Hall in Ankara

Republican People’s Party, or CHP, supporters gather outside the City Hall in Ankara, Sunday, March 31, 2024. (AP Photo/Ali Unal)

The vote was a key test of Erdogan’s popularity as he sought to win back control of key urban the opposition won in elections five years ago. The CHP’s victory in Ankara and Istanbul in 2019 had shattered Erdogan’s aura of invincibility.

The main battleground for the 70-year-old Turkish president was Istanbul, a city of 16 million people where he was born and raised and where he began his political career as mayor in 1994.

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The result came as a boost for the opposition, which was left divided and demoralized after a defeat to Erdogan and his ruling Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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