An East London election has been declared void and will have to be re-run after the mayor was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
An Election Commissioner concluded Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman had breached election rules and would have to vacate his post immediately.
At the special High Court hearing, Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey also ordered Mr Rahman to pay £250,000 in costs. One of Mr Rahman’s aides Alibor Choudhury was also found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
Evasive and discursive
Mr Mawrey – who sat as a judge – said the mayor had “driven a coach and horses through election law and didn’t care”.
He added that Mr Rahman, who had been elected for a second term in the borough, would be “incapable” of standing in the new election.
Mr Mawrey described Mr Rahman as evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion. He also suggested Mr Rahman, who was born in Bangladesh, had played race and religious cards. Mr Rahman ran a ruthless and dishonest campaign to convince electorate his rival John Biggs was a racist, Mr Mawrey said.
After the ruling, Labour politician Mr Biggs said: Today’s ruling… is a victory for honest politics. By setting out to break the rules and going to extraordinary lengths to win last May’s mayoral election, Lutfur Rahman and his allies robbed the people of Tower Hamlets of the free and fair mayoral election they deserved and betrayed everyone in our community who trusted and voted for him.
Deliberately false allegations
The group of voters who brought the action was headed by Andy Erlam, who stood as a councillor. He said: “It is a fantastic result for democracy. There will have to be a new election of mayor. Mr Rahman cannot stand.
The four voters mounted the legal challenge under the 1983 Representation of the People Act. Their lawyers made a series of allegations, including “personation” in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering.
Lawyers for Mr Rahman, who was re-elected for independent party Tower Hamlets First last May, described the claims as invention, exaggeration and in some cases downright deliberately false allegations.
However the Election Commissioner said that Tower Hamlets First was never really a party but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman.