Lib Dem vote rigging alleged

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LIBERAL DEMOCRATS in east London confirmed last night that a ballot-rigging allegation was made to the party's London Region office following a postal vote to chose candidates for council elections in Bethnal Green.

A 30-strong Bengali community group accused two local activists of threatening its funding to obtain ballot papers. The office did not investigate because the complaint did not contain enough detail.

The allegation surfaced as Paddy Ashdown, the party leader, condemned attempts by officials in Tower Hamlets to reselect election candidates to match the borough's racial make-up.

The Tower Hamlets executive is unhappy with the recent election of six Bengalis, all on the approved candidate list, to fight two wards in Bethnal Green.

'This is a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to try and make sure that there is a proper racial mix in an area of racial tension,' said Mr Ashdown. Leading Liberal Democrats in the borough had been planning secretly to limit Asian candidates in some wards in the run-up to the 5 May contests, in which the British National Party aims to capture three seats.

Graham Tope, London region president, said yesterday: 'I have made it clear to the chair of the Tower Hamlets local party that the only constitutional basis for the selection of candidates is one-member-one-vote. Any selection not on this basis would be unacceptable.'

The procedure intended to be applied in Weavers and St Peter's wards in Bethnal Green and St Katharine's and Shadwell in Wapping would have involved the local party executive applying a version of the single transferable vote system to ward ballots.

The move followed a heavy increase in membership in the Bethnal Green area, much of from among the Bengali community. New ballots are likely to be held.

Complex political tale, page 3