One year after the setting up of a new political party formed by former Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman, ousted after a vote-rigging scandal, the party won its first seat.
Shadwell ward, one of two by-elections being contested yesterday, Thursday, was won by Mohammad Harun Miah, the representative from independent political party Aspire. He won the seat with 34% of the votes cast, a total of 1,012, amidst unprecedented security at both counts.
Aspire was set up by Lutfur Rahman, who was removed as mayor of Tower Hamlets after being found guilty of electoral fraud in 2015. He was barred from standing in local elections for five years, but the Electoral Commission approved his application to form a new political party, Aspire, last year. Aspire fielded a candidate in both Shadwell, and the second ward up for election, Lansbury.
Lansbury was won by Labour’s Rajib Ahmed with 1,308 votes, 40% of those cast. She beat her second-placed rival, Abdul Monsur Ohid Ahmed, who had previously been Rahman’s deputy, by 306 votes.
In 2014, claims of ballots being double-cast and rival party votes intentionally lost led to Rahman’s removal. Since then, there’s been a dedicated and steadfast response by Tower Hamlets council to clean up the borough’s image.
Voters visiting the eight polling stations across Shadwell and Lansbury yesterday had to provide photo identification, a date of birth and national insurance number, all of which were checked against government records.
If any of the election staff suspected foul play, police were available at both polling stations with back up available from a mobile police team.
After the polls closed at 10pm, the secured ballot boxes were taken safely to Tower Hamlets Town Hall to be counted. Everyone who attended the count, including staff and councillors, had to be registered on a photo ID system that automatically identified them prior to entry.
According to the Evening Standard, this is the first time the automated photographic system had been used in the UK. Returning officer and Chief Executive for Tower Hamlets Council Will Tuckley told the Standard: “The council has worked with election management software company Xpress to develop the automated photographic entry system.”
The security and anti-fraud measures taken by Tower Hamlets are recognised across the country as best practice.
Tuckley continued: “The council’s elections team worked hard putting preparations in place to ensure each ballot ran smoothly, safely, securely and in the spirit of free and fair democracy.”
Further drama was added to proceedings after the Liberal Democrat candidate for Shadwell, Abjol Miah, was suspended from the party the day before the elections after allegations surfaced linking him to the promotion of anti-Semitic videos.