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Watchdog Warns Tower Hamlets Ahead Of General Election

Tuesday 1st July 2014

The elections watchdog has ordered the London borough of Tower Hamlets to put in place precautions to make sure delays seen in May's European and local council elections don't happen again.

The Electoral Commission says both the police and the returning officer needed to take action ahead of a by-election in the borough's Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward on Thursday.

It will observe the polling stations on voting day and will also be present at the count.

The returning officer also has to publish an overall plan for the management of the count in next year's general election by the end of this year.

An election petition challenging the result of the election for the mayor of Tower Hamlets - which was won by Lutfar Rahman - was lodged with the High Court earlier this month.

The Red Flag Anti-Corruption Party has accused Mr Rahman's party of electoral fraud, corruption and political smears - claims he has consistently denied.

The commission said that its report had been drafted so as not to prejudice the outcome of that challenge.

Electoral Commission chair Jenny Watson said: "It is vital that everyone involved in the elections in Tower Hamlets learns from the experience of the 2014 elections so voters and campaigners in Tower Hamlets can have confidence in the administration of future election counts.

"We will be monitoring the returning officer's response closely over the coming months and if we are not satisfied that sufficient progress has been made by September 2014 we will make clear what more needs to be done."

Tower Hamlets returning officer John Williams said: "The elections on May 22 were hard-fought and intensely scrutinised.

"Many additional measures were introduced locally, in discussion with the Metropolitan Police and with the support of the Electoral Commission, to combat fraud, regulate the conduct of participants and build trust in the electoral process.

"These added to the complexity of the elections in Tower Hamlets and the duration of the count, but the overriding aim of a free and fair election was achieved.

"I am pleased that the commission's report recognises these factors and also the steps already taken to improve the count arrangements for the Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward election."