A voter, who expressed sympathies for the Labour Party in last May’s Tower Hamlet’s Mayoral election, said she was spat on by a canvasser for Lutfur Rahman, in an amended High Court Claim that brings fresh allegations of electoral malpractice against the Mayor.
A petition calling for a re-run of last year’s election and citing alleged electoral malpractice has been amended to include further allegations after Election Commissioner Richard Mawley QC granted petitioners permission to do so. It is due to be heard in the Royal Courts of Justice on February 6.
The additional allegations, brought forward by four Tower Hamlets residents and led by campaigner Andy Erlam, accuse Tower Hamlets First sympathisers of attempting to exert influence over the voting process.
It cites intimidation outside nine polling stations, with “women and older people” being stood over whilst they cast their vote and the presiding officers failing to intervene in up to fourteen cases. It also claims that Mayor Rahman’s election agent, Councillor Alibor Choudhary, paid people to canvass votes.
A “slush fund” of £954,00 was also used, it states, to pay “lunch clubs” that were host to political promotions of the Mayor, run by Councillor Maium Miah.
It is alleged that Rahman, in attending an event in May where an Iman urged worshippers to “retain truth righteousness and practice religious belief” by voting for him, could be seen to be endorsing these views. The Iman is said to have prayed for Rahman’s success at a wedding weeks later.
Mayor Rahman said: “I completely reject the unsubstantiated allegations of voter intimidation outside polling stations and the use of public funds for political gain.”
“The Electoral Commission and police have already investigated and dropped election complaints and the recent PwC audit found no bias in the distribution of funding. These are not new claims, but cynical political attacks which are manifestly untrue. I look forward to being able to prove as such at the election hearing.”
Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles sent in a team of commissioners to oversee aspects of “local governance” such as grant-giving, appointments, property deals and the overseeing of future elections in December. This followed an exposé report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which found there to be a “worrying pattern of divisive community politics and alleged mismanagement of public money by the mayoral administration of Tower Hamlets”.
Mayor Rahman has consistently denied the allegations.
A spokesperson for the Tower Hamlets Petition campaign said: “The Petitioners are four Tower Hamlets voters who have had to obtain evidence which cover many issues. The new allegations raise grave concerns about alleged intimidation of voters and the use of public money, allegedly to procure votes.”
“While all allegations are denied, it is vital that they are tried and the High Court decides on the evidence whether they have foundation. The Petitioners are grateful to the Court for allowing these allegations to be tried.”