London election 2022: Lutfur Rahman wins Tower Hamlets mayoral race in major upset

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Utfur Rahman has made a dramatic comeback as mayor of Tower Hamlets despite being impeached for electoral corruption.

In an upset local election on Friday, Mr Rahman beat Labor incumbent John Biggs with a total of 40,804 votes on his Aspire party platform.

In 2015, he was removed from office a year into his second term after an electoral tribunal found him guilty of illegal practices and corruption – a civil rather than criminal conviction.

He was never prosecuted and denied any wrongdoing.

Despite this cloud hanging over his reputation, Mr Rahman managed to persuade voters in the east London borough that he should be given another shot at the top job.

As the result was announced late Friday afternoon, loud cheers erupted from Mr Rahman’s supporters.

Coming into the race for the first time since his five-year election ban ran out in a closely watched contest that saw police stationed outside borough voting booths, Mr Rahman said he would be mayor of the entire community.

Speaking to reporters after the count, Mr Rahman said: “The people of the borough delivered a verdict today. I was in the people’s court. And they said in a loud voice that they want Lutfur Rahman and his team to serve them for the next four years and that’s what I want to do.

Asked about his previous standing ban, he said: ‘I’m not going to comment on that. Today, that’s not it. Today, it’s about the people of the borough. They came out in large numbers yesterday and they expressed loud and clear the democratic will and they wanted change. And that change is me and Aspire.

When asked if these were free and fair elections, he replied: “I have no doubts. I have full confidence in the municipal agents, I have full confidence in the police officers of the district. And they oversaw a democratic process yesterday.”

Victory had been grimly predicted by Labor figures hours after the count began. Rabina Khan, who was once part of Mr Rahman’s first Tower Hamlets party before defecting to the Lib Dems, was knocked out in the first round, with 6,430 first-preference votes.

Ms Khan had previously come second in the two previous municipal elections in Tower Hamlets.

A longtime figure in Tower Hamlets politics reacted in dismay, telling The Standard: ‘It will be a bizarre version of a one-party state’, adding there has been a ‘dismal failure’ of policing of the Met to take allegations of election malfeasance seriously in 2014.

Conceding defeat, Mr Biggs said: “I wish my successor every success as he faces a formidable challenge in doing this job. It’s a difficult concert, as they say.

“My role now is to accept defeat with grace. I love Tower Hamlets, it’s a great place, and I want it to be a strong and better place and I send my best wishes to my successor and I hope that he can get there.

Elected mayors hold more power than traditional council heads because they can approve major projects on their own without the support of other councillors. Whoever wins the mayoral race effectively wins control of the council.

Counting for the councilor positions will take place on Sunday, with the final composition of the council being known on Sunday evening.

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