Following swiftly on from one Lib Dem’s wife being arrested on suspicion of involvement in electoral fraud in Nechell’s, the Stirrer are now reporting that two more Lib Dems, may have been arrested in the different part of the city in relation to offences that may have been committed last year…
The Stirrer understands that a Birmingham Liberal Democrat councillor and a local election candidate have been arrested by police investigating allegations of postal voting fraud.
Zaker Choudhry, the councillor for Bordesley Green and Mohammed Saeed who’s standing in the same ward face a probe over possible offences during last year’s elections.
Lib Dem MP and Birmingham councillor John Hemming said that both men strenuously deny any wrongdoing, and recalled that last year another member of the party was arrested shortly before polling day only to be cleared – but he admitted that the police action “would not be helpful” at the ballot box.
West Midlands Police would not confirm the arrests – but The Stirrer is confident of his sources.
Please note that for legal reasons, there will be no discussion of this case on our messageboards.
What would make this even more significant, if true, is that Bordesley Green is one of the two wards in which election results were overturned, in 2005, by an election court.
In keeping with the unconfirmed nature of this story, at present, no comment on this post for the time being. Sorry…
The Stirrer’s report of the arrests (above) has now been confirmed by, of all people, John Hemming, who writes on his blog:
Why two days before the election
One Lib Dem Candidate and a Lib Dem Councillor in Birmingham have been arrested in respect of allegations about the 2006 Local Elections. The real question is why this has been done two days before the election (this morning) rather than after the election. (Mohammed Saeed and Cllr Zakar Ullah Choudhry)
Superficially it appears that the police are intervening in the election itself. They arrested one of our candidates in the 2006 election. He, however, was found to have not committed any offence (the postal votes found with his wife were his, his wifes and their children).
We know that some form of setup is going on because a postal vote was misdirected to the same Lib Dem Candidate’s house. It is a bit like harrassing people with Pizzas and Taxis instead we have harrassment with postal votes.
Obviously we need to investigate the allegations further, but it all seems a bit fishy to me.
With all due respect, John, the real question here is, first and foremost, whether there is any substance to these allegations or, at the very least, sufficient initial evidence to warrant an arrest.
Only after that is answered does the question of the timing of the arrests come under question.
What’s most interesting about these arrests is that they appear to relate to allegations appertaining to last year’s local elections – one would have to presume, therefore, that the police may be acting on a specific complaint/allegation about the conduct of the individuals in question and must have obtained, or been given, some evidence to support the allegations sufficient to warrant an arrest.
If that is the case then, at the very least, it does suggest that the timing of the arrests may well be more a function of the timing of these complaints/allegations, rather than anything that would indicate deliberate police intervention in the electoral process.
Not enough is known, at this point, to second guess the police in their actions, or the timing of their actions.
However – and without wishing to cast any aspersion or make any suggestion of wrongdoing whatsoever, a quick background information check into the two individuals named in this story does appear to show an anomaly in regards to Cllr Choudhry.
Accord to 192.com’s database, Cllr Choudhry appears, bold as brass, on the current (2007) electoral roll for Birmingham but not on any it its historical electoral rolls – in essence this may indicate that Cllr Choudhry may not have been registered to vote in Birmingham prior to this current year, including at the time he was elected to Birmingham City Council.
This seeming discrepancy is not conclusive evidence of anything, there being at least two possible reasons why Cllr Choudhry might, quite legitimately not appear on the electoral roll for any year prior to this one – his qualification for election as a councillor in 2006 may have stemmed from his business interest in a petrol station in Small Heath or from two residential properties he owns in the same area, even though he may have actually lived (and voted) outside Birmingham prior to this year.
Alternatively he may simply have requested, in previous years, that 192.com omit his personal information from its online database, as he is perfectly entitled to do, only to decide on becoming a councillor that this was no longer necessary or this may even be the result of a simple transliteration error. There are several English variant spellings of the name Choudhry all of which derive from the same Bengali name – without getting too technical, in transliterating names from languages that use an alphabet/writing system that is unrelated to the western Latin alphabet, the best one can do is produce an ‘English’ spelling derived from the phonetic composition of the name, which may then give several different spellings depending on exactly how each phoneme in the name has been recorded.
Choudhry, Chowdhry and Chowdhury all look, to western eyes to be similar, but distinct name – even though they all refer to a single, discreet Bengali name.
This kind of confusion is evident in the two reports – the Stirrer gives Cllr Choudhry’s first name as ‘Zakar’, John gives the spelling ‘Zaker’ and this confusion over the correct English transliteration is even evident in the councillor’s entry on Birmingham City Council’s register of members interests, where it appear that Zakar was initially used only then to be corrected to Zaker.
One hesitates someone to point this out, as one wants to be entirely in clear is stating that I am in no way raising questions of doubt about the honest of either individual at this point in time, but these kinds of transliteration errors and sometimes the basis on which verifiable electoral frauds are perpetrated, in the form of a single individual obtaining multiple votes by having multiple entries on the electoral roll at different addresses and under slightly different spellings of the same name. As I’ve said, that should in no way be taken as a suggestion that either of the two man arrest today have been involved in any such practices, I include the information merely to point out how and why ‘discrepancies’ that may lead to or be used for fraud can arise without it being obvious to those staff whose job it is to maintain and scrutinise the electoral roll.
At this point, therefore, all this proves nothing – although it may suggest to John that there may be matters that his party need to look into in order to account for this apparent discrepancy to their own satisfaction, and may also – conceivably – has been a contributory factor in the police’s thinking on today’s arrests, as any such anomalies migh, in concert with a complaint/allegation of electoral misconduct of some sort, create the impression that there are things that may merit investigation, even if such inquiries lead only to a perfect reasonable and mundane explanation of the seeming discrepancy.
In short, this may amount to nothing, but it may be worth looking into if only to clear it up and verify that everything is entirely above board, or that there is a reasonable explanation that accounts what appears, otherwise, to be an anomaly in Cllr Choudhry’s records.