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LABOUR’S Helal Abbas is ahead of his main rival Lutfur Rahman in the race to become Tower Hamlets’ first elected mayor, according to the latest bookies’ odds.

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The leader of the council has pipped the independent candidate to the post in predictions for Thursday’s vote.

Paddy Power has Mr Abbas on odds of 4/9 while Mr Rahman is on 13/8, while Ladbrokes has placed the Labour candidate on 4/6 and his rival on evens.

A spokesman for Ladbrokes said: “This is a very close race with a likely photo-finish between Abbas and Rahman.

“Our assessment is that Abbas, as the official candidate for a Labour Party, may just nick it.”

Former Labour member Mr Rahman was sacked by the party last month as its candidate for the role, which will be the first of its kind for the borough.

He was accused of corruptly funding the campaign to bring about a directly elected mayor and also for relying on fraudulent votes.

Liberal Democrat John Griffiths is on 66/1, Conservative Neil King on 100/1 and Green candidate Alan Duffell, according to Paddy Powers’ odds.

Ladbrokes has the Conservative candidate on 33/1, Lib Dem on 50/1 and Green on 50/1.

Meanwhile, the first postal votes have come in.

Out of 175,000 people eligible to vote, 25,000 have opted to do so by post.

All ballot papers will be scanned to check that signatures and dates of birth match those registered.

This time last year, the spotlight was on Tower Hamlets after almost 7,000 votes were found to be invalid out of a petition of 17,189 signatures to call a referendum to elect a mayor.

Final preparations are now being made to the borough’s 119 polling stations which will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday.

Returning officer Kevan Collins said: “This is the first mayoral election for the borough so all residents should be pioneers and take part.”

Residents will have two votes, selecting both a first and second choice candidate.

The candidate with more than half the first choice votes will get the job.

If no candidate reaches that level, the top two will enter a new race, with the second votes added to their tally to see who gets the most.

Find your polling station at towerhamlets.gov.uk/electoralservices or call 020 7364 6231.

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