Council candidates in Dewsbury have been urged to “keep it clean” after allegations of postal voting fraud and intimidation at the last local elections.
Three people were cautioned by police after an investigation into voting irregularities in Dewsbury South in 2012.
There were no elections last year and this time Tories in Dewsbury South, Dewsbury East and Dewsbury West have drawn up a pledge demanding “free and fair elections.”
The Tories are calling on candidates from all parties – and Kirklees Council’s chief executive Adrian Lythgo and West Yorkshire Police – to sign the pledge.
Former Dewsbury South Tory Clr Khizar Iqbal, ousted from the council after 14 years after a huge political swing, called in police after he claimed to have evidence of postal voting fraud and intimidation.
Three people were later cautioned but no charges were brought.
Mr Iqbal, standing again in Dewsbury South, said the pledge was no political stunt and he remained angry that nothing had come from of his complaints.
He said he had given police “concrete evidence” but claimed both the force and the council had failed the electoral system.
“There was a large scale postal vote fraud and voter intimidation taking place in Dewsbury South and it’s all on the public record because I made a complaint to the police and the local authority,” said Mr Iqbal.
“It is not about who won or lost, it is about the integrity of the ballot and the reputation of the British electoral system. I believe public confidence is at an all-time low.
It is shameful what happened in 2012.”
For many years there have been rumours of election fraud in Dewsbury but nothing has been proved.
Dewsbury West Tory candidate Shehzad Hussain, standing for the first time, claimed he had first hand experience.
“As someone who has lived in Ravensthorpe all my life I’ve witnessed some extreme instances of voter intimidation by candidates and political activists where police have been called to try and diffuse the situation,” he said.
“Some polling stations have resembled battlefields as opposed to places where residents can peacefully place their votes without intimidation.”
Mark Eastwood, the Tory candidate for Dewsbury East, said the town had created headlines for all the wrong reasons, adding: “I would encourage candidates from all political parties and those charged with overseeing the election to sign our pledge so that we can show the residents of Dewsbury that we can hold elections without any controversy or serious incident and that we can be certain that the elections are free and fair.”
The Tories want Mr Lythgo and a police chief to sign the pledge which says: “We, the undersigned, candidates of all political parties standing in the Kirklees Metropolitan Council elections on May 22 in the Dewsbury East, West and South wards and representatives of Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Police – publicly pledge to ensure that the forthcoming elections on May 22 are free and fair and condemn all forms of electoral fraud or voter intimidation and will take all steps necessary to ensure that no such conduct or behaviour will be perpetrated or accepted – and any reports of such conduct will be reported and fully investigated.”
A council spokesman said as Mr Lythgo was away they were happy to leave the response to police.
West Yorkshire Police declined to comment on the pledge but Chief Supt Tim Kingsman, Kirklees district commander, said: “We are committed to protecting the integrity of our democratic voting system and will have a policing operation in place on polling day.
“Any allegation of electoral fraud is taken extremely seriously. The police work closely with the returning officer in Kirklees both in the run up to and following any election to share information and identify any suspicious activity.
“If anyone has specific concerns about electoral fraud in their area I would ask them to contact their local returning officer in the first instance so this information can be acted upon.”
Dewsbury West Labour councillor Mumtaz Hussain, who is standing for re-election, said neither he nor his Labour colleagues would tolerate any untoward behaviour and said all candidates and party activists had been told the rules regarding postal votes.
“Sometimes people don’t understand,” he said. “At this time of year people go on their holidays to Pakistan or India and won’t be back in time for the election. Then others come to us with their voting cards.”
Clr Hussain said he would “not entertain” anything suspicious and added: “If there is a pledge I will be signing it.”
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