'Dirty Tricks' Claims In Mayor Poll

Counting is under way to elect a new mayor to replace a corrupt one who was forced from office after being convicted of illegal practices.

There was a highly visible police presence at the ExCel London exhibition centre where votes are being counted in the mayoral election for the borough of Tower Hamlets.

Earlier this week fresh allegations of malpractice emerged concerning this year's campaign.

Problems with postal votes, voter bribery and "dirty tricks" are among claims by candidates vying to succeed Lutfur Rahman.

Police officers were stationed at all the polling stations yesterday to combat any attempts to influence the voting process.

Local campaigner Andy Erlam, who led the court action that brought down Rahman, is standing for his own Red Flag – Anti-Corruption party. He said he has found evidence of problems with postal votes "without really looking", including a council-owned block of flats with 100 registered voters, but with 90 of the 100 flats empty.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said on Wednesday the postal vote rejection rate was running at about 6.8%, with 2,011 of 29,578 postal votes declared void.

He added: "This is lower than at previous Tower Hamlets elections."

Rahman was convicted in April by a special Election Court of corrupt and illegal practices during his 2014 election win. Scotland Yard has already said it is assessing 16 complaints of electoral malpractice this time around.

Last year's election was marred by allegations of vote tampering and intimidation at polling stations.

Rahman was barred from office for five years in April after Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey, sitting as an Election Court judge, found him ''personally'' guilty of wrongdoing and ''guilty by his agents''.

Labour's John Biggs, the previous runner-up, is the bookies' favourite to win this time, ahead of Rabina Khan, Tower Hamlets' cabinet member for housing and development. She is a former member of Rahman's Tower Hamlets First (THF) party, but is standing as an independent.

Also standing are Conservative Peter Golds, Ukip's Nicholas McQueen, Liberal Democrat Elaine Bagshaw, the Green Party's John Foster, Vanessa Hudson of the Animal Welfare Party, and independents Md Motiur Rahman Nanu and Hafiz Abdul Kadir.