Lutfur Rahman, the disgraced politician tried by an electoral tribunal for engaging in corrupt and illegal practices, secured a comeback by winning the vote to become mayor of Tower Hamlets in east London.
After his five-year ban on running for public office expired, Rahman successfully ousted incumbent mayor John Biggs of Labour, under the banner of his Aspire party.
Rahman was expelled from office in 2015 after a specialist court found him guilty of voter fraud, vote buying and religious intimidation. But the police and the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was not enough evidence to press charges.
Rahman won 40,804 votes in the second round, with Biggs on 33,487.
The result is a blow to Labor in what was otherwise a very successful run of results in London, where it took Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster from the Tories.
Rahman announced in February that he was planning a political comeback with a challenge to Labor over “service cuts, tax hikes and road closures”. In an election leaflet, he wrote: “I have never, ever acted dishonestly, but to those who think I did not exercise enough control over activists in the last election, I apologize.
Rahman was originally a Labor leader of Tower Hamlets Council from 2008 to 2010 before running independently for mayor in 2010. He was re-elected in 2014 under a new party called Tower Hamlets First, but was removed from office. office in April 2015, when he was found guilty by the Civil Electoral Tribunal rather than criminal law.
At the time, Elections Commissioner Richard Mawrey said Rahman had “drove a carriage and horses through election law and didn’t care”. He ordered Rahman to pay £250,000 in costs.
Rahman and his supporters were found to have used religious intimidation through local imams, rigged votes and falsely branded his Labor rival a racist to gain power.
Mawrey said at the time that Rahman sought to play the “race and Islamophobia card” throughout the election. “He was an evasive witness – Rahman was undoubtedly behind illegal and corrupt practices,” Mawrey said.
However, Scotland Yard concluded in 2018 that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute an individual.
After a £1.7million investigation into the allegations, the Met said it “has not identified sufficient further evidence or investigative opportunities to enable the Met to request the Crown to consider charging any individual in connection with offenses of voter fraud and professional misconduct resulting from the 2014 mayoral election.”
After learning of his victory on Friday, Rahman urged people to “judge me on what we will do for you”. He said: “I want to rebuild Tower Hamlets, I want to invest in our future and give our people a better future than we have had for the past seven years.”
He added: “Judge me and my administration on our record, what we delivered in the first term. The only borough in the country to have free home care. We have delivered London’s Living Wage – the first in London. We distributed the university scholarship, the school maintenance allowance. Our promises for the future are even more progressive. Judge me on what we will do for you.