We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

A change of tune

“Brussels moves to preserve access to London clearing houses”, reports the Financial Times.

Brussels is to adopt emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure after the country’s post-Brexit transition period expires, the bloc’s regulation chief said on Thursday.

Valdis Dombrovskis, the European Commission’s executive vice-president in charge of financial policy, said Brussels would adopt “time-limited” access rights to make sure that European companies could still access UK-based clearing houses after the end of this year.

“This decision is being taken to address the possible risks to financial stability related to the specific area of derivatives clearing,” Mr Dombrovskis said. “However, we would encourage all market participants to prepare for all possible eventualities, as we have consistently called on them to do throughout this process.”

Mr Dombrovskis did not specify when the access rights would expire, but the move will provide short-term certainty for traders in the specific area of clearing while Brussels continues to discuss future relations with the UK.

To be frank I have only the vaguest idea what a clearing house does. It sounds worryingly like tidying. But whatever it is, for the EU to adopt “emergency measures to preserve Europe’s access to crucial UK financial market infrastructure” seems a distinct change from its previous policy, also mentioned in the article:

Brussels has repeatedly urged the financial sector and companies to adapt to the fact that Britain is leaving the single market; the EU also adopted legislation last year to make it easier to force clearing houses to relocate to the continent. But progress has been slower than the EU had hoped and investors have kept their business in the UK.

I am not surprised at the investors’ decision. I do not need to be an expert in decluttered differentials to be able to work out that if the EU felt the need to pass laws to make it easier to force investors to move their business out of the UK that means they would be better off staying put.

Another reason why state funding of political parties is a bad idea

“Viktor Orban ruins his rivals with power grab”, the Times reports.

Under a regime described by critics as the “omnipotence law”, Mr Orban’s government is able to take sweeping measures to tackle the coronavirus epidemic without parliamentary approval.

Within days of the reform it announced that parties, banks, multinational corporations and local councils would be obliged to pay into a £3.3 billion national fund designed to cushion the blow to the Hungarian economy.

Political parties must hand over half of the grants they receive from the state, a total of about £2.8 million, Gergely Gulyas, one of Mr Orban’s closest ministerial allies, said. The measure will apply to all Hungarian parties, including Fidesz, the prime minister’s party, which is backed by businesses that have benefited from public contracts. Some of its struggling rivals, however, are heavily reliant on public funding. Jobbik, the largest opposition party in the National Assembly, is still reeling from a fine of nearly £1 million after auditors found that it had underpaid for billboard advertising.

Emphasis added. From what little I know of Hungarian politics, the Jobbik and Fidesz parties seem to have swapped bodies. I hold no brief for either. But I can sympathise with the plight of anybody – or any body – that suddenly has their financial support kicked away. Unfortunately that is what happens when the state pays your bills: what the state gives, the state can take away. Hence the “self ownership” tag on this post.

As I wrote the above, I remembered having written something very similar before. That post was about the last of the Kalahari Bushmen. The plight of the last opposition parties of Hungary is not quite as desperate as theirs, but give it time.

Is Italy heading for a (Terror-)Famine? Spanish press report

The ‘conservative’ Spanish newspaper/site abc.es. has a report about the food situation in Italy (in Spanish) which indicates the following, something our media seems to ignore, per my translation:

‘Increasing woe in Italy due to the coronavirus: almost 3,000,000 people need food aid’

There’s a 10% uplift there, as the report gives a breakdown with more details.

In Campania more than 530,000 people need food, almost 9% of the region’s population. More than 364,000 in Sicily, almost 283,000 in Calabria. Even Lazio has more than 263,000 people in need. One analysis says around 2,700,000 people need food aid.

There is much discussion of raids on pharmacies and supermarkets, with police guarding them. This might be Southern politicians screaming for ‘pork’. Or perhaps the economy collapses when the State imposes lockdowns.

The Italian State has responded (to the problem it created)

Urgent response of the government

On Saturday night, the government responded urgently to this cry of alarm from the whole South of Italy, where there is a grave risk which some have called a ‘Social Bomb’ or ‘A Social Powderkeg’ which could explode if urgent solutions aren’t found.

The Prime Minister announced on Saturday night aid of 4,300,000,000 euros for families (Mr Ed. What type of family?) and another 400,000,000 euros in vouchers “to help the citizenry who have no money to buy basic necessities”

Or is this about something else? This paragraph caught my eye:

The challenge of the black economy

The ex-president of the National Anticorruption Authority, Raffaele Cantone, a prestigious Napolitan magistrate, has indicated that the true challenge is the black economy, with thousands of people who are now helpless: «It’s about the existence –says Cantone– of a parallel economy which everyone knows about, which some, and not only Southerners, exploit and many others tolerate, hypocritically pretending that they can’t see it.»

And how long here before our food supply chains might disintegrate, when people have to laboriously shop 2 meters apart, queueing to get in, queueing to pay, as the capacity of the shops to serve customers is throttled, whether or not the products are limited or in short supply. Is there any modelling of how long this can go on, never mind if it should at all?

Germany and Italian COVID-19 data – and why they’re so different

Is there something about being Germany which protects the body against coronavirus Covid-19? Probably not, I would guess. In which case why do the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute show that the country has a case fatality rate (CFR) of 0.3 per cent, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures from Italy seem to show a CFR of 9 per cent? To say there is a vast gulf between those figures is an understatement. If nine per cent of people who catch Covid-19 are going to die from it we are facing a calamity beyond parallel in the modern world. If only 0.3 per cent of people who catch it die from it, this pandemic may yet turn out to be no worse than seasonal flu, which as I have explained here before is estimated by the US Centers for Disease Control to kill between 291,000 and 646,000 people a year without the world really noticing. According to John Hopkins University, which is collating fatalities data, 15,308 have died to date.

Ross Clark, Spectator (behind paywall).

A couple more:

Germany is almost certainly behind Italy in this epidemic. But the main difference between Germany and Italy lies in those countries’ respective attitudes towards testing. Germany has carried out far more enthusiastic testing of the general population – there does not seem to be a central figure for this, but the German Doctors’ Association has estimated that 200,000 people across the country have been tested. In Britain, it is 64,000 people. On the other hand, German hospitals do not routinely test for the presence of coronavirus in patients who are dying or who have died of other diseases. Italy, by contrast, is performing posthumous coronavirus tests on patients whose deaths might otherwise have been attributed to other causes.

It stands to reason that the more people who are tested, the more accurate a picture we will have of the mortality rate, the transmission rate and other metrics which will determine the eventual path of this pandemic. To underline the uncertainties behind the data from which policy is currently being made, the Royal Society of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine the other day estimated the number of people in Britain who already have or have had Covid-19 at between 6,000 and 23 million. That is a pretty broad spread with hugely different implications. If only 6,000 have the disease in Britain, socially-distancing the population or locking down society might have a purpose. If 23 million have the disease, it is pointless – it already has ripped its way through the population but without killing more than a tiny percentage.

What we really need is a huge effort to test a large randomised sample of the population to see how widespread the infection is. Hopefully, that will soon happen. But in the meantime, I am minded to think that the more accurate picture of Covid-19 comes from the country which has conducted the most tests: Germany.

The more I read, the more it seems to me that randomised testing, as Clark writes, is crucial, not least in reducing hysteria and the effects that hysteria is having, and will continue to have, on our society and business. The costs, in terms of stress, the destruction of businesses and so much effort, needs to be weighed.

I have come across a few comments on social media, of the passive/aggressive sort, that “it is so amusing to see all these experts all over social media on epidemics” – the implication being that the mass public should shut up, “stay in your lane” and let the men/women in white coats take charge. The problem with this however is what happens if the experts disagree, or if their policy advice causes so much damage, including to the liberties and welfare of the citizenry, that a democratically elected politician has to make a judgement call? We don’t, rightly, outsource vast coercive powers to everyone who claims to be an expert on something. That’s not how it is supposed to work.

In France you now have to download a permit to go for a walk

At first I thought this was une blague pratique. Apparently not, unless Tim Worstall’s denial is merely evidence that he is in on the joke. He writes in today’s Times:

Among the measures introduced in France to deal with the coronavirus is a requirement to fill in a form before going out for a walk.

No, really, this is not a joke. As part of the lockdown it is necessary, before leaving the house, to complete and sign a download from the Ministry of the Interior. Name, address, what you think you’re doing and so on.

This is not filed with anyone, nor registered. It must simply be carried during the errand. Absence, if caught, will lead to a €135 fine. A new form is required for every exit from the house. And yes, there’s a box to tick for “aux besoins des animaux de compagnie” which my memories of exchange visits have as “for the needs of our furry friends”.

The solution to a global pandemic is a form for walking the dog. Of course, it is easy to mock the French but there is an important point here, for this is an example of a pernicious worldview. That we, the people, are only able to cope if we are told what to do, what we may do. All must be decided and enforced by the clever people in power and nothing left to ordinary folks to get on with.

Our own tradition is vehemently different. I have surprised people in a number of countries by pointing out that a British policeman isn’t actually allowed to ask — or at least not to insist upon knowing — what it is that you are doing. If accosted, a cheery “Going about my lawful business, constable” is all that is required. Such liberties might not apply in moments of crisis but they are indicative of a different manner of thinking.

A similar restriction is being applied in Italy, according to The Local.it:

Now that justification is required simply to be on the street, you’ll need to have a copy ready as soon as you leave the house.

If you have access to a printer, you can download the form here.

Ther’s also now an application able to generate an electronic version of the ‘autocertificazione’ form as many times as needed, to keep handy on your phone with a digital signature.

Police at checkpoints (such as those at train stations) should also have a stack of paper forms available, and you can ask to take a few.

But what if you do not have access to the internet?

Alternatively you can copy out the whole thing by hand: make sure to write everything exactly as it appears on the form, in full.

“Extinction Rebellion isn’t about the climate” says one of its founders

“I’ve been with Extinction Rebellion (XR) from the start”, Stuart Basden explains.

And for the sake of transparency: that previous paragraph is all about me ‘pulling rank’ — I’m trying to convince you to listen to what I have to say…

And I’m here to say that XR isn’t about the climate. You see, the climate’s breakdown is a symptom of a toxic system of that has infected the ways we relate to each other as humans and to all life. This was exacerbated when European ‘civilisation’ was spread around the globe through cruelty and violence (especially) over the last 600 years of colonialism, although the roots of the infections go much further back.

As Europeans spread their toxicity around the world, they brought torture, genocide, carnage and suffering to the ends of the earth. Their cultural myths justified the horrors, such as the idea that indigenous people were animals (not humans), and therefore God had given us dominion over them. This was used to justify a multi-continent-wide genocide of tens of millions of people. The coming of the scientific era saw this intensify, as the world around us was increasingly seen as ‘dead’ matter — just sitting there waiting for us to exploit it and use it up. We’re now using it up faster than ever.

Euro-Americans violently imposed and taught dangerous delusions that they used to justify the exploitation and reinforced our dominance, while silencing worldviews that differed or challenged them. The UK’s hand in this was enormous, as can be seen by the size of the former British empire, and the dominance of the English language around the world.

This article is a year old, but someone on the UK Politics subreddit called “WhereHasCentrismGone” posted it with the comment that it made the now rescinded decision by the police to include Extinction Rebellion in a list of extremist ideologies that should be reported to the authorities running the Prevent anti-terrorism programme seem more reasonable. I think it was out of order for the police to put XR on a terrorism watch list – their stunts annoy but are not violent – but we should be grateful to Mr Basden for reminding us that XR should be avoided by anyone who seriously wants to protect either the environment or their own mental health, seeing as the organisation is an anti-scientific cult fuelled by the neurotic self-hatred of privileged dilletantes in rich countries.

Let us remember their sacrifice a century ago

Because if we don’t, who will? I consider myself quite well versed in history, and I am certainly disposed to honour those killed while fighting Communism, yet even I had barely heard of the Soviet-Polish war of 1920. I had not thought of it for years until reminded by a post by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit:

The war that saved Europe from Communism

Ars longa, vita brevis

The Guardian reports, “Sculptor Antony Gormley plans Brexit giants off the French coast”:

Now, on the eve of Britain’s potential departure from Europe, Gormley is planning a new and dramatic intervention on the beaches of northern France. He wants to erect a group of seven huge sculptures, made from iron slabs, on the coast of Brittany. They will look towards Britain, the lost island of Europe.

There is something in that image that can appeal to both sides. I think Mr Gormley might make better art than his predictable opinions might lead one to suppose:

Gormley describes Brexit as “a stupid moment of collective fibrillation” and argues that such an imposed separation from the rest of Europe will be damaging and false. “We belong to Europe, geologically as much as anything else. We were only separated five thousand years ago. The whole idea that somehow we can go it alone by making greater relationships with the former Commonwealth and with our friends and cousins in America is just ridiculous,” he tells Wilson.

Mind you, it will take about thirty seconds flat for some wag to call these figures standing on the coast of France as they wistfully look towards Albion “the illegal immigrants”.

Stephen Davies on the Wealth Explosion (1): How Europe was and was not exceptional

About two hundred and forty years ago, the human species began to experience a wealth explosion. Poor people, who had been living and dying on the edge of starvation for millennia, began to get less poor, and slightly richer people started to become even richer, and much more numerous. Every graph measuring human comfort, wealth, progress, length of life, and so on, switched – historically, in the blink of an eye – from being a nearly horizontal line to being a nearly vertical line. This wealth explosion began in North West Europe, and quickly spread to other parts of Europe and to the USA. Now, poor people everywhere are getting less poor in unprecedentedly vast numbers. It’s a different world, and for just about everyone, a hugely better one.

What caused this wealth explosion? And why did it first erupt where it did, in Europe?

For some time now I have been getting to grips with a new book by Stephen Davies entitled The Wealth Explosion: The Nature and Origins of Modernity.

The central and most striking arguments in this book concern how Europe was – and just as significantly, was not – exceptional, as a potential detonator of this wealth explosion.

Clearly there was something exceptional about Europe, or the wealth explosion that we all now enjoy would not have started here. And equally clearly, all the positive ingredients needed for the explosion had to be present here for it to start happening. But the mere presence of all these positive ingredients, says Davies, is not what made Europe exceptional. Until Europe started exploding economically at the end of the eighteenth century, it had been, globally speaking, an economic and cultural backwater. All of these ingredients – demographic, economic, social, institutional, intellectual, spiritual – had been present, in greater strength and for far longer, in other parts of the world, most notably in China. The economic and cultural centre of the world, at least until the late eighteenth century, was not Europe but rather the lands around the Indian Ocean. So, why did the wealth explosion not happen there?

The answer that Davies supplies in The Wealth Explosion is that Europe was exceptional in being the only one of the world’s great civilisations that was not, at the historical moment when it mattered, politically unified. No European “hegemon” emerged in the centuries just before the wealth explosion got started, in the way that single imperial regimes had emerged to dominate Russia, the Middle East and India, and as had long been in successive imperial command in China.

This was the decisive negative ingredient that Europe possessed but which was lacking elsewhere, and this was what made the difference. The wealth explosion got seriously explosive in Europe because, when it started and from then on, nobody in Europe was powerful enough or motivated enough to stop it. On the contrary, the rulers of Europe never stopped competing with one another, and were therefore strongly incentivised to keep their wealth explosion going, despite all the upheaval that it caused. Economic stasis, and cultural stagnation of the sort that would have stopped the wealth explosion, was not, for the various contending rulers of Europe, an option. They needed guns, guns which had to keep on getting better. They needed money, to pay for the guns, and for the ever increasing numbers of people needed to develop, fire and later to carry the guns into battle. They needed the wealth explosion, no matter how much it was empowering new classes of citizen producers and citizen warriors. So, they let it happen. They even encouraged it. At which point the only way not to be beaten by the wealth explosion was to join it. And there we have it: the modern world.

The above is my best shot at summarising what I think is the most important line of argument in The Wealth Explosion. I had intended to write a single, quite long, mostly glowing review of this book. And I tried, I really tried. But the task defeated me (especially the “quite” long bit). Despite its small size for such a subject (only 248 pages) The Wealth Explosion contains so many interesting ideas besides those summarised above, so much pertinent historical detail, and so many judgements based on the voluminous writings and discoveries of other historians, that I found it impossible to say everything that I wanted to say about it in one blog posting, while remaining confident that anyone at all would want to wade through all that I had written. So, I abandoned the attempt to say everything, and instead decided to make a start by merely saying something. I now intend that there will be several more postings here about The Wealth Explosion (in the manner of these recent postings here by Patrick Crozier about Ulster).

That’s the plan anyway. I’ll end this first posting about The Wealth Explosion by saying that, although I don’t now want to elaborate on why I find the central argument of this book, as outlined above, to be so persuasive, I do find it to be very persuasive, and the book in general to be fascinating. And since the historical event in question is arguably the biggest single fact that there is about the world that we now live in, that makes this a very good book indeed. How do you write an excellent work of grand historical theory? You ask important questions and you supply convincing answers. You support these answers with many other interesting and closely related truths, and with reports of relevant debates among and with your fellow historians. This is what I think Stephen Davies has done.

Meanwhile, to learn more about The Wealth Explosion, read the review of it that Ananya Chowdhury did manage to write, for the Adam Smith Institute blog. Or, read what Stephen Davies himself wrote about his book and its conclusions, for CapX. Or, if you like it when people are good at talking to camera as well as good at writing (Stephen Davies is very good at both), listen to what Davies said to the Cato Institute about his book, as recorded in this video.

Have we vanished into the night?

The good folk at Lawyers for Britain have published a short paper by an eminent QC, recently retired, on whether or not the latest ‘extension’ of the ‘Article 50’ 2 year period for making arrangements to leave the EU is valid, if it is not, the upshot of this would be that the UK left the EU at 23.00 hours on 29th March 2019 (without anyone realising it).

The author of the piece, Stanley Brodie QC, puts his argument around the way in which Article 50 is worded, and suggests that there was only power within Article 50 for one extension to the negotiation period, which the hapless Mrs May used up in her botched attempts at getting an extension to ram through Parliament her ‘Withdrawal Agreement’.

Our learned friend’s view of the proviso for an extension of Article 50 includes:

The proviso could not be used to reopen, or continue, never ending debate. Nor can it be used as a general power to extend time.

One might hope, but this is the EU. He also says that when the EU made a counter-proposal for extension of the negotiation period with the UK, this was not lawfully done.

On 25th March 2019, the UK government set out its plans for delaying departure, in brief, there was this announcement:

“3. However, the agreement reached with the EU provides for two possible durations:
a. An extension to 11pm on 22 May 2019 if the House of Commons approves the Withdrawal Agreement by 29 March; or
b. An extension to 11pm on 12 April 2019 if it does not, before which the UK would need to put forward an alternative plan on decide to leave without a deal.
4. The Government has therefore laid today, Monday 25 March, a draft SI under Section 20(4) that provides for both these possibilities; …”

Mr Brodie’s view includes the following:

The Agreement provides for two possible durations; whereas the proviso to paragraph 3 provides for a unanimous decision “to extend this period”. The two concepts are wholly different. Extending “this period” is one outcome; two possible durations, without any certainty, are certainly something else, not authorised anywhere in Article 50. If one can have two hypothetical durations, can one make an Agreement under Article 50 which includes more than two durations – a kind of take your pick deal? It is obvious that such an arrangement would be incompatible with the need for an orderly, or credible exit from the EU. The conclusion, I would suggest, is that the Agreement used and implemented by the Prime Minister, Mr Barnier and President Tusk was unlawful and ultra vires Article 50. It was without any legal foundation in accordance with Article 50. Purporting to use their Agreement as compliance with the requirements of Article 50, paragraph 3, and in particular its proviso, was unsustainable. That meant that the illegal nature and purpose of the Agreement invalidated it; there was no unanimous decision to “extend this period”. The requirements of Article 50 were ignored. It was not an application to extend this period as required by the proviso.

Our learned friend also takes issue with the advice given by Civil Servants to Parliament (well, the House of Commons iuam) about what was going on around the various extensions, I have added some emphasis:

5.2 Next, on or about the 14th March the Government issued a note entitled Parameters of Extending Article 50. It contained inter alia the following statement:
What are the legal requirements for an Article 50 Extension set out in the EU Treaties?
The Article 50 period is set at 2 years unless, as provided for in Article 50 “the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend [it]”. Article 50 does not establish any upper limit on the length of an extension. However, given the Article 50 period is explicitly time-limited, any extension would have to set a specific end date, because it is necessary for reasons of legal certainty to be clear on the date on which the UK will leave the EU.”

5.3 It is at this point that there occurs a curious mishap. The first and second lines of the quotation purport to be an accurate reproduction of Article 50. They are not. If one looks at Article 50, it is apparent that the last three words of paragraph 3 are “extend this period”; but in the quotation the last two words are “extend [it]”. So the version put out by the civil servants was false. The differences in meaning between the two versions were considerable.

(a) The true version
Under this version the EC and the Member State can agree to extend “this period”. This period is the two year period after which the Member State ceases to be a member of the EU automatically. But it would appear that the power to extend Article 50 can only be used once; “this period” appears to be limited to the two year period, making it clear that no further extensions to Article 50 could be made. That would certainly curtail any power to make any further extension.

(b) The false version
The last four words of this version of Article 50 now read “decides to extend it”. The wording of this version is apt to enable the Prime Minister to seek as many extensions to the Article 50 process as she wishes; she is no longer inhibited by the restrictions contained in Article 50. It is relevant to point out that in the Parameters paper there appears this statement at paragraph 2:
“This paper provides a factual summary to inform parliament’s debate on that motion”.
5.4 So the civil servants responsible for briefing parliament to enable an informed debate to take place, themselves were misleading it. The alteration of the text of Article 50, and of the proviso to paragraph 3, must have been deliberate.

The beneficiary of this misconduct was the Prime Minister, who could and did arrange for extensions of time without hindrance. The text of the Parameters paper makes it clear that the civil servants had no qualms about extensions or their supposed length and legal foundation. October 31st 2019 is the latest.
This is a truly alarming state of affairs; it should be exposed sooner rather than later.

In summary, he includes the following:

(i) The application by the Prime Minister for an extension of time until June 30th under the proviso to Article 50, made on or about the 14th March 2019, was legally valid, but was rejected by the EU.

(ii) This was followed by the Agreement proposed by the EU. It did not comply with the terms of the proviso; nor was Article 50 referred to or relied on by the EU. It was not effective to stop the Article 50 process running up to and including the 29th March at 11 p.m. Whichever way one looks at it, the Agreement was either unlawful or made for an unlawful purpose or ultra vires .That means that the UK left the EU on the 29th March 2019 by default as there was no valid or lawful impediment to prevent it.

I am not aware of any proposals to test these arguments by seeking a declaration from the High Court, which would be the usual method for deciding a question of law regarding the UK’s affairs. I would say that even if these arguments have merit, I am afraid that I doubt that any application would get a fair hearing in the UK.

However, wouldn’t it be a superb outcome for Mrs May to have taken us out of the EU by accident without realising, and therefore to have resigned by mistake, should she carry out that avowed intent? She would become the ultimate, Universal Champion clusterf*ck politician of all time, although she’s probably made that podium already.

ADDENDUM: APL points out that there is apparently a legal case brought by Robin Tilbrook of the English Democrats. The most that I can find about his case, which appears to rely on some other matters, is here.

Resisting ethnic prejudice by other means

Germany resists islamophobia. German law seeks to purge the public domain of such offensive views.

Germany also resists anti-semitism. The German government’s anti-semitism commissioner has warned Jews to avoid being Jewish in public.

The BBC sees the German far right behind the rise in anti-semitism that prompted the commissioner’s advice. Is it just me or are they ignoring a rival explanation?

Also, is it just me, or is the German method for resisting anti-semitism rather different from the German method for resisting islamophobia – so different, in fact, that their advice to Jews resembles what their law demands of ‘islamophobes’: become invisible in the public domain lest you cause offence?

I wrote a poem about this a while back.

Do please feel free to say that it’s just me and there is really nothing more to see here. After all, I expect that’s what the German government’s anti-semitism commissioner would say – but he might be only obeying orders, or only obeying the anti-islamophobia law.

A distant mirror

“Turkey officials order re-run of Istanbul election, voiding win for Erdogan opposition”, reports the Independent:

Turkish authorities on Monday ordered a redo of an election won by an opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party, snatching away a major victory from the country’s opposition.

Under heavy pressure by Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) Turkey’s High Election Commission (YSK), which is described as packed with the president’s loyalists, cancelled the results of 31 March Istanbul mayoral elections narrowly won by Ekrem Imamoglu, a rising star in the Turkish opposition.

The news was reported by Turkey’s state-run Anatolia News Agency. It sent the Turkish lira, already battered by inflation and high borrowing costs, tumbling.

Mr Imamoglu appearing before a crowd of supporters struck a defiant tone.
“We won this election by the hard work of millions of people; they attempted to steal our rightfully won elections,” he said. “We are thirsty for justice. The decision-makers in this country may be in a state unawareness, error or even treason, but we will never give up.”

The Times has also reported on this story: “Election chiefs order re-run of Istanbul poll Erdogan lost”.

Imamoglu, the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate who won the March 31 poll by 14,000 votes, of the office and duties that he had already assumed.

In a statement to crowds waving Turkish flags in the city’s Beylikduzu district hours after the announcement was made, Mr Imamoglu, 48, urged his supporters to “stand up against what you know to be immoral”.

Street protests broke out across the middle-class, secular neighbourhoods of Istanbul where support for Mr Imamoglu and his party runs highest.

The Guardian has followed Mr Imamoglu’s rise closely in recent months, not surprising given that Mr Imamoglu is a liberal secularist standing up for democracy against the Islamist demagagogue Erdoğan. For instance this admiring profile of Mr Imamoglu by Bethan McKernan appeared last month: “Ekrem İmamoğlu: a unifying political force to take on Erdoğan”. As it usually is, the Guardian‘s straight reporting of the story that the election is to be run again is fair enough: “Outcry as Turkey orders rerun of Istanbul mayoral election”. But something tells me that the newspaper’s liberal, secularist columnists may not leap with their customary vigour to defend Mr Imamoglu’s hard-won democratic victory against those in power who would use their control of procedure to make him fight it again. On the other hand, perhaps I am too pessimistic. They are all devotedly pro-EU, after all, and the left-wing MEP who might be thought of as the European Union’s spokesperson on Turkish affairs has spoken clearly and well:

Kati Piri, the European parliament’s Turkey rapporteur, said the decision “ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections” in the country.