A bid to block a challenge to the recent mayoral election in Tower Hamlets in London, which brought independent Lutfur Rahman back for a second term, has failed, paving the way for a full high court hearing.
Four voters, headed by Andy Erlam, who stood as a councillor on an anti-corruption ticket, have launched an election petition to get the result declared void following widespread allegations of fraud and intimidation.
But lawyers for Rahman applied for the petition to be dismissed as an abuse of process, saying that in breach of the relevant rules, sufficient particulars of the allegations were not given.
On Tuesday, Mr Justice Supperstone and Mr Justice Spencer said they had reached the firm conclusion, for reasons they would give at a later date, that the petition was “not a nullity in whole or in part”.
The ruling is a blow for the mayor, who had hoped to kill off the petition. His team argued that it is a waste of council resources to fight a claim, which is being secretly backed by Labour and the Tories.
The election, held in May, saw Rahman’s Tower Hamlets First party swept into power on the council, despite a central government inquiry launched by Eric Pickles. The inquiry investigated claims that public money has been spent disproportionately on his supporters’ pet projects and that council properties have been sold to his allies at knockdown prices. Rahman dismisses both claims.
The high court petition accuses Rahman of being connected to alleged electoral fraud, including the casting of postal votes in the names of people not entitled to be on the electoral register.
It also alleges that votes were illegally cast on behalf of other electors and that activists were paid to lobby people in and around polling stations.
The petition claims false allegations of racism were made against losing Labour mayoral candidate John Biggs.
The courts may now investigate Rahman’s election win, with the possibility of the result being overturned.