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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The growing controversy over Tower Hamlets

The Times carries a report today outlining the extraordinary events surrounding the Tower Hamlets Mayoral election as they are now being told to the High court.

 They sau that Britain’s first elected Muslim mayor was accused in the High Court of exerting unlawful “spiritual influence” over voters, who were allegedly told that it was their religious duty to vote for him:

They add that electors were told that they could hope for rewards in the afterlife if they voted for Lutfur Rahman, but might be punished in the next world if they supported his Labour rival, documents filed at the court claim:

The detailed allegations, seen by The Times, also show that Mr Rahman’s supporters are accused of intimidation, voting fraud and giving voters free food.

Alleging spiritual influence, the petitioners noted that 101 Islamic leaders in the borough signed a letter to a Bengali newspaper supporting Mr Rahman. Some of the signatories were linked to religious organisations that received £25,000 each in grants from his council.

The mayor’s supporters allegedly told voters leaving prayers that the Labour candidate intended to close the mosques and that Islam would be safe only if Mr Rahman were re-elected.

Activists outside a polling station allegedly told Bengali voters: “Islam is in danger. You must vote for Lutfur otherwise you are not a good Muslim.”

The petition states that the consequence of this influence was that voting Labour would be un-Islamic and sinful, but supporting Mr Rahman was virtuous and Islamic. “Voting for [Mr Rahman] may, in the premises, attract awards in the hereafter; and voting for Mr Biggs, being a sinful activity, may lead to punishment in the hereafter.”

The paper provides a full list of the allegation filed in papers at the court relating to the election:

Personation at polling stations Voters were turned away because others had already voted in their names

Postal voting fraud Mr Rahman told a meeting of activists that they must fill up to 250 postal vote application forms each. Everyone was given 250 of the forms

His representatives told voluntary organisations that they must obtain votes for him by illegal means if they wished to retain council grants. On estates, supporters asked for blank postal ballots and filled them in. Electors on estates with external post boxes did not receive their postal ballots. Mr Rahman’s supporters removed and used them

“Black shirts” At a council meeting, a supporter of Mr Rahman compared supporters of the Labour candidate John Biggs to Oswald Mosley’s blackshirts.

Articles in press London Bangla, a Bangladeshi newspaper whose owner has received £11,000 in grants under Mr Rahman’s mayoralty, claimed that Labour was running a racist campaign similar to the British National Party

Undue influence and/or interference with voters A young woman was permitted to “help” an older woman to fill in her ballot paper at a polling station. A Bengali family was so intimidated that they were willing to enter only when provided with a police escort

Bribery Mr Rahman’s party, Tower Hamlets First, uses a house as its logo. On polling day voters were told that they should vote for the house logo to get a house

Spiritual influence Mr Rahman’s supporters conveyed to voters that voting for his opponent would be un-Islamic and sinful but that voting for the mayor would be virtuous and Islamic

Payment of canvassers Young men working for the council canvassed for the mayor during working hours

Breach of returning officer’s official duties Counting staff placed 47 ballot papers for Mr Rahman in a bundle that should have had 50 while Mr Biggs’s votes were put into bundles of more than 50.
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