April 1 (UPI) -- In one of the greatest defeats for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his Justice and Development Party has lost control of the capital city Ankara after elections Sunday.
Victories by the secular People's Republican Party, led by mayoral candidate Mansur Tavas, ended more than two decades of leadership for Erdogan's party in Ankara. Some consider the election a referendum on Erdoğan's administration, particularly amid a currency crisis that led to a recession last month and rising costs of living.
State-run Anadolu news agency reported the Nation Alliance had captured 48 percent of the vote in Istanbul, compared to Erdogan's People's Alliance with 47.7 percent.
Sunday's losses for Erdogan's party could signal the beginning of great change to Turkey's political landscape.
"[If] the Erdogan-led AK Party-MHP alliance loses Istanbul, along with Ankara as well, that means loss of control over five major cities in Turkey," analyst Murat Yetkin said. "Even if Istanbul, with 11 million voters, is won with a few thousand votes, it will be perceived as a major loss."
Erdogan-backed candidate Nihat Zeybecki lost in Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city, to National Alliance candidate Mustafa Tunc Soyer -- 58 percent to 38 percent.
Erdogan has blamed the country's economic downturn on foreign intervention and has threatened to jail protesting dissidents. The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey last year, but they were lifted after accused U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson was released from a Turkish prison.