UK: Bangladeshi Once Removed from Office for Election Corruption Wins Mayoralty of Tower Hamlets, London

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Tower Hamlets, London, has voted for Mohammad Lutfur Rahman — removed from office for “corrupt and illegal practices” in a 2014 election — as Mayor.

“The people of the borough gave a verdict today. I was in the court of the people and they said in a loud voice that they wanted Lutfur Rahman and his team to serve them for the next four years,” crowed the Bangladesh-born politician following local elections across England on Thursday.

Rahman became Britain’s first directly-elected Muslim executive mayor in ultra-diverse Tower Hamlets in 2010, amid allegations of improper links to the radical Islamic Forum of Europe group and irregularities in his selection as Labour’s candidate (which was ultimately rescinded, forcing him to run as an independent).

He was re-elected in 2014, but removed from office after four electors brought allegations of “corrupt and illegal practices” against him under the Representation of the People Act — the Electoral Commission and police had failed to act on concerns about the election — and the courts found in their favour.

Judge Richard Mawrey QC ruled that agents of Rahman had “engaged in personation, false registration, double-voting, [and] tampering with ballot papers”, used public resources for “obvious electioneering”, and wielded “undue spiritual influence” over Muslim voters, in part via allied Muslim clerics telling them it was “the duty of faithful Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman”.

Mawrey also found he had used his office for the purpose of bribery, channelling funds to Bangladeshi media, for example, and Bangladeshi and Muslim organisations that in some cases had not even applied for grants.

Despite his 2014 election having been overturned, however, Mr Rahman has now been elected Mayor of Tower Hamlets once again, a five-year ban on his being able to run for office having expired.

“I want to rebuild Tower Hamlets, I want to invest in our future, and give our people a better future than we had in the last seven years,” he claimed.

“Lutfur Rahman being re-elected in Tower Hamlets tells us why we need political reform,” commented Brexit leader Nigel Farage on his return to politics.

“End postal voting now and start again,” he added — mail-in votes having factored into the ruling on Rahman’s 2014 election, with the judge describing evidence that “painted a pattern of postal voters having been asked by supporters of Mr Rahman to hand over their postal votes” in his ruling.

“[In] the 21st century… a combination of the extremely lax rules relating to the registration of electors and the introduction of postal voting on demand made personation [the false impersonation of voters] once again viable” in British elections, the judge lamented elsewhere in the ruling.

Britain’s postal voting system was not substantially altered in recent electoral reforms which made voter ID compulsory.

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