Woking election candidate used illegal practices, judge rules

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The winning candidate in elections in Surrey committed corrupt and illegal practices by himself and with agents, a judge has ruled.

Liberal Democrat Mohammed Bashir defeated Labour candidate Mohammad Ali by 16 votes in Woking's Maybury and Sheerwater ward in May 2012.

Judge Richard Mawrey ruled corrupt and illegal practices had been committed with the purpose of procuring Bashir's election.

Bashir will be ordered to pay costs.

A by-election will be held in the ward and the judge ruled Bashir would be banned from standing in it.

The judgement, by Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC, said Labour candidate Mr Ali had alleged Bashir and his electoral team had caused false names to be entered on the electoral register, using the names of people who did not live at the stated address, or never existed at all.

Analysis

In 2005 Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey upheld allegations of postal fraud in Birmingham, relating to seats won by Labour. And then in 2008, a Conservative councillor in Slough was found guilty of using bogus postal votes.

In the past he has accused the government of being "in denial" about the problem and said by drawing attention to it, something might be done.

Now in this case in Woking involving a Liberal Democrat councillor, Mr Mawrey has repeated his criticisms of the UK's "shambolic electoral system" and described a sense of "deja vu".

He says the system has always been insecure, that it still is and that there are many ways in which it could be defrauded.

Once again he has called for action.

Mr Mawrey said there had been an "abnormally high" number of late registrations, multiple registrations in the same property, and abnormally high turnout figures.

"Sadly, therefore, this is yet another case where the United Kingdom's shambolic electoral system has led to an election being challenged on the ground of widespread fraud," the judgement said.

Mr Mawrey said Ray Morgan, Woking Borough Council's returning officer, ran a "tight ship".

"It is not his fault that he is an honest man called on to run a dishonest system," he said.

There have been allegations of fraud including misuse of postal votes, intimidation of electors and false registrations at past elections in Woking.

Speaking to BBC Surrey, Mr Ali said he was "exhilarated" by the verdict.

"I had an excellent team of supporters," he said.

"People who believed this electoral fraud should be rooted out.

"It was all about stopping this electoral corruption. We've been complaining about it years now."

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