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High Court challenge to Lutfur Rahman election as Tower Hamlets mayor

PUBLISHED: 11:22 28 July 2014 | UPDATED: 20:33 28 July 2014

Lutfur Rahman re-elected Tower Hamlets mayor on May 22

Lutfur Rahman re-elected Tower Hamlets mayor on May 22

Archant

Voters are in the High Court this morning in their challenge to May’s local Tower Hamlets election results which put independent Mayor Lutfur Rahman back in power for a second term.

Crowds of Lutfur Rahman supporters outside the Tower Hamlets election count in May. Photo: David MirzoeffCrowds of Lutfur Rahman supporters outside the Tower Hamlets election count in May. Photo: David Mirzoeff

Four voters who named him in the writ and claiming “electoral fraud” filed a petition last month seeking to get the election in London’s East End declared void.

The petition accused Rahman’s followers of “casting votes in the name of people not entitled to vote and acquiring voting papers and casting them fraudulently”.

It was lodged by Andy Erlam, who stood in the separate election for councillors the same day, May 22, on an anti-corruption ticket, and three other activists.

The writ also accused the Town Hall’s returning officer of permitting party election agents to enter polling stations unlawfully and leaving campaign materials in polling booths.

But Tower Hamlets council’s Returning Officer, John Williams, later his back at suggestions of allowing unlawful practice.

He said: “I reject allegations in the petition about the Returning Officer’s conduct of the election.

“The Returning Officer’s role is neutral and non-political—my sole aim is to provide free and fair election results. That’s why I introduced a strong Local Protocol against fraud and intimidation which the Electoral Commission recognised in a report this month as one of the toughest in the country.”

Today has been spent with the judges hearing legal arguments and their decisions will be known tomorrow morning.

There were 84 allegations of unlawful or corrupt practice passed to the police, who later confirmed they were investigating eight incidents.

The writ further claims false accusations of racism were made against Labour’s narrowly-defeated candidate for mayor, John Biggs, and that people were employed to engage in corrupt activity around and inside polling stations.

Labour said many voters were “alarmed and disappointed” at what happened.

The hearing before Judge Hornby, which began at 10.30am, is expected to last two days.

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