Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman has been removed from office after he was found guilty of voting fraud, corruption and exerting unlawful religious influence during last year's election campaign in east London.
The result of the mayoral election was declared void at the High Court and Rahman, who was Britain's first Muslim executive mayor, has been ordered to pay costs of £250,000.
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Rahman was re-elected mayor in May, triumphing over Labour rival John Biggs. However, allegations of voting irregularities and religious influence soon emerged. In yesterday's ruling, Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey said Rahman ran a "ruthless and dishonest campaign".
He was found guilty of a number of offences, including:
Voting fraud: Hundreds of fake postal votes were cast by Rahman's supporters.
Unlawful religious influence: His party told voters that it was their "religious duty" as Muslims to vote for him.
Bribery: Huge sums of money were given to local organisations who were "totally ineligible or who failed to meet the threshold for eligibility".
Treating: The party provided free food and drink in an attempt to encourage people to vote for him.
False statements: Rahman accused his rival Biggs of being a racist and silenced his critics with "accusations of racism and Islamophobia".
What has the reaction been?
"The ferocity of the judge's verdict provoked gasps in court," with friends and family claiming Rahman had been unfairly treated, The Guardian reports. Rahman continues to deny all allegations.
Rahman's party, Tower Hamlets First, said the judgement was a "shock" and it would be seeking further legal advice, while Biggs said the ruling was "a victory for honest politics".
However, former London mayor Ken Livingstone said he was "distinctly uncomfortable" with a court's ability to remove an elected mayor. "If there is any illegality, then surely that is a matter for the police," he said.
What will happen next?
"Mr Rahman's career in politics looks like it is over," says the BBC's political correspondent Karl Mercer. But the consequences of the ruling could extend further than the courtroom, he says. "How will the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets, many of whom voted for Mr Rahman, react? What will the judgement's impact be on community cohesion?"
Police are now considering whether to launch a criminal inquiry against the former mayor, while Rahman has indicated he may launch a judicial review.
The re-run of the poll is expected to be on either 7 June 11 June.
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