Allegations against the returning officer responsible for overseeing last May’s local elections in Tower Hamlets have been withdrawn the High Court heard today.
John Williams was accused of mismanagement of the vote and the miscounting of ballot papers.
He told the BBC: “I welcome the decision of the petitioners to withdraw any allegations against myself and my staff.I have always maintained that those allegations were without foundation.
“This was a hotly contested election run in challenging circumstances. As returning officer I am politically neutral and my only concern is to run an efficient, free and fair election.
“I am pleased that the petitioners accept that this election was conducted in accordance with the law and that I acted in an entirely professional manner throughout”.
The petition,which has accused Mayor Lutfur Rahman of alleged electoral fraud, corruption, intimidation and bribery had its first hearing in the High Court today, as petitioners Andrew Erlam, Debbie Simone, Azmal Hussein and Angela Moffat called for the results of last May’s election to be declared null and void.
The petitioners, who are Tower Hamlets residents and members of the independent political party Red Flag Anti-Corruption, plan to call 80 witnesses to support their allegations. They claim that there was postal voting fraud, taken by agents of Mr Rahman, and ghost voting with people registered to vote not being actually residents at those addresses.
The additional allegations accuse Mayor Rahman and his cabinet of attempting to exert “undue spiritual influence” over voters and allegedly paying sympathisers to canvass votes.The Mayor was also accused of using £954 to fund “lunch clubs” as part of the Mayor’s political campaign.
Jason Pavlou, a member of Red Flag and oficial spokesperson for the petitioners told East London Lines :“As far as the petition is concerned, it’s been very good. I feel confident on the judicial process.”Mr Rahman has consistently rejected the claims as “unsustained, cynical and politically motivated”.
The case is being heard at the Election Court – part of the High Court – by Judge Richard Mawrey and will take place over a number of weeks.