Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets
Lutfur Rahman was told by the Election Commissioner he would be “incapable” of standing in the new election
An east London election has been declared void and will have to be re-run after the mayor was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
An Election Commissioner concluded Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman had breached election rules and would have to vacate his post immediately.
Four voters alleged Mr Rahman used “corrupt and illegal practices” in last year’s election.
Mr Rahman, who denied any wrong-doing, has been banned from standing again.
Read the latest reaction to the judgement on BBC Local Live London
At the special High Court hearing, Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey also ordered Mr Rahman to pay £250,000 in costs.
One of Mr Rahman’s aides Alibor Choudhury was also found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices.
Tower Hamlets First, the party which Mr Rahman represents, said the judgement was a “shock” and they were seeking further legal advice in relation to a judicial review.
‘Evasive and discursive’
Mr Mawrey – who sat as a judge – said the mayor had “driven a coach and horses through election law and didn’t care”.
He added that Mr Rahman, who had been elected for a second term in the borough, would be “incapable” of standing in the new election.
Mr Mawrey described Mr Rahman as “evasive and discursive witness whose evidence was untruthful on occasion”.
He also suggested Mr Rahman, who was born in Bangladesh, had played “race” and “religious” cards.
Petitioners Azmal Hussein, Angela Moffat and Andy Erlam accused Lutfur Rahman of electoral fraud
Mr Rahman ran a “ruthless and dishonest campaign to convince electorate his rival John Biggs was a racist”, Mr Mawrey said.
After the ruling, Labour politician Mr Biggs said: “Today’s ruling… is a victory for honest politics.
“By setting out to break the rules and going to extraordinary lengths to win last May’s mayoral election, Lutfur Rahman and his allies robbed the people of Tower Hamlets of the free and fair mayoral election they deserved and betrayed everyone in our community who trusted and voted for him.”
‘Deliberately false allegations’
The group of voters who brought the action was headed by Andy Erlam, who stood as a councillor.
He said: “It is a fantastic result for democracy. There will have to be a new election of mayor. Mr Rahman cannot stand.”
The four voters mounted the legal challenge under the 1983 Representation of the People Act.
Their lawyers made a series of allegations, including “personation” in postal voting and at polling stations and ballot paper tampering.
Lawyers for Mr Rahman, who was re-elected for independent party Tower Hamlets First last May, described the claims as “invention”, “exaggeration” and “in some cases downright deliberately false allegations”.
However the Election Commissioner said that Tower Hamlets First was “never really a party but the alter ego of Lutfur Rahman”.
In a statement, Tower Hamlets First said: “Today’s judgment has come as a shock – the Mayor strongly denies any wrongdoing and had full confidence in the justice system, and so this result has been surprising to say the least.”