Woking election candidate used illegal practices, judge rules

Elections - generic
Image caption A by election will now be held

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.

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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