Given that there is a General Election taking place in 2015, there is going to be a great deal of political maneuvering and jousting. All of the parties are desperate to get their point across and the battle for votes and dominance in a particular area is becoming even more competitive. The political battles fought in Scotland in 2014 for the Referendum Debate were highly tense but it looks as though this year could see debates and political antics of a similarly tough nature.
An early indicator of this has been seen in a strong of allegations leveled against Luftur Rahman in the build up to the Mayoral Election which is being held in May. There have been allegations of voter intimidation with claims that some voters have been spat on while other voters have been provided with free lunches while canvassers were paid for their activities in the build up to the Mayoral election.
Rahman is facing the claims which have been brought by a number of local residents who are keen for the election to be rerun. They are claiming that the election was won through electoral fraud but Rahman has responded by stating that people making unsubstantiated and politically motivated attacks.
There could be implications for the General Election
If it was decided that electoral fraud had been undertaken, there could be huge implications for the General Election taking place in May, particularly in the East End of the country’s capital city. It looks as though a variety of Labour MPs will be dealing with challenges coming in from independent candidates, many of whom are associated with Rahman. There has long been criticism over the political nature of Tower Hamlets, with the borough having been referred to as a “rotten borough” due to the numerous claims of religious extremism and corruption in the local area and political community.
A hearing will take place at the start of the February and the hearing has already been moved from the town hall in Tower Hamlets to the Royal Courts of Justice in the heart of London as there have been concerns about the town halls ability to be seen as a neutral venue.
One of the most serious allegations raised against Rahman is the fact that his associated have been accused of generating and using a slush fund of £954,000 to divert funds to lunch clubs that are aimed at the Bangladeshi community in some of the key areas of the community. The court papers also indicate that intimidation was cited at 9 polling stations with one claim stating that a Labour supporter was spat in the fact by a canvasser, who was backing Rahman.
The Representation of The People Act is the important element to keep in mind
Any one of these allegations would be illegal under the “Representation of the People Act” and there is an opportunity for the results of the election to be declared void while anyone found guilty of backing the actions could find themselves barred from holding political office. There are also allegations that spiritual influence has been used to reach out to voters, something which the Act would deem as being corrupt.
Rahman has issued a statement, saying; “I completely reject the unsubstantiated allegations of voter intimidation outside polling stations and the use of public funds for political gain. The Electoral Commission and police have already investigated and dropped election complaints, and the recent PwC audit found no bias in the distribution of funding. These are not new claims, but cynical political attacks which are manifestly untrue.”
When it comes to specialist fraud like electoral fraud, there is a need to turn to specialist legal professionals. This is such a limited area of the law and there is a need to work with professionals that have a thorough understanding of the Act and Regulations that are associated with the allegations. No matter the case being brought against a person or the charges that you face, specialist legal advice is always worth taking but in the case of a matter such as electoral fraud, there is a need to get the most relevant guidance and expertise.
Given the high pressure nature of the General Election this year, it will also be interesting to keep an eye out for any behavior or activity that may go against the Act. With social media being an ever increasing presence in the political landscape, there are more pitfalls and potential dangers for candidates and their backers to be wary of.
Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer.