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MPs call for international observers to investigate Tower Hamlets vote rigging

Stephen Hammond, the Conservative MP for Wimbledon, has written to Lamberto Zannier,  secretary
general of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.  He has appealed for a team to examine voting in Tower Hamlets for evidence of fraud.

As the Evening Standard reports:

OSCE missions are usually sent to struggling democracies such as Kosovo and Kazakhstan but have monitored past UK general elections. Asking them to investigate Tower Hamlets is a clear snub to the Electoral Commission, the official watchdog of fair voting.

Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour MP for Poplar & Limehouse, which covers half the borough backed the plea.

He said:

“Additional security ought to be welcomed by those of us who want to protect our democracy.”

The letter from Stephen Hammond says:

Dear Mr Zannier,

Electoral fraud in the United Kingdom (2012)

In the 2005, the OSCE sent international election observers to the United Kingdom to establish the scope for election fraud. The OSCE’s report noted:

‘The introduction of postal voting on demand in 2000, without the need to present a reason for the application, has demonstrated the vulnerability of any trust based electoral process… Although the legal and administrative procedures in this regard appear to have been developed to prioritise enfranchisement, the issue of postal voting raised lingering doubts about the ability to securely regulate this aspect of the process’ (OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and
Human Rights, Assessment Mission Report – UK General Election, August 2005, p.1).

This was followed up by the Council of Europe which resolved to send a delegation to investigate electoral fraud in the United Kingdom. Its report in January 2008 noted:

‘It is clear that the electoral system in Great Britain is open to electoral fraud... shortcomings and vulnerabilities remain… The official argument that there is little statistical evidence to support the notion that electoral fraud is widespread in Great Britain is clearly not valid and does not seem to be substantiated by the recent investigations into electoral fraud’ (Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe, Application to initiate a monitoring procedure to investigate electoral fraud in the United Kingdom, 22nd January 2008, summary para 4, and para 129).

The recent London local elections in May 2012 have, I am afraid, raised further concerns about systematic election fraud in the United Kingdom, particularly in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

I am pleased to say that the UK’s Coalition Government is taking steps to legislate to introduce individual electoral registration – but this cannot come into effect until 2014 at the earliest.

However, local councillors in Tower Hamlets have raised the alarm that the local authority and the arms’ length watchdog, the Electoral Commission, have failed to take seriously the allegations of fraud.

I believe there needs to be an independent investigation into the actions (and inaction) of both Tower Hamlets and the Electoral Commission. Such a review must be seen to be at arms length of governmental institutions.

Given the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ previous involvement in reviewing electoral processes in the United Kingdom, I would request you consider the case for returning to London to undertake a follow-up review to your 2005 report, using Tower Hamlets and the recent London elections as your case study.

I believe such an inquiry would help ensure that the United Kingdom can take action to protect its reputation for fair play and the review would help ensure the integrity and confidence in the ballot in the United Kingdom. The fact that the ‘mother of Parliaments’ has ongoing problems with electoral fraud, would send a strong signal to other nations – including emerging democracies – about the need for continuing vigilance against electoral fraud.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Hammond MP
House of Commons



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