The election of a new mayor for Tower Hamlets, prompted by the ejection of the last incumbent for widespread fraud, is already the subject of 16 separate allegations of electoral irregularities, police have confirmed.

Four days before voters in the east London borough choose a successor to Lutfur Rahman, Britain's first directly elected Muslim mayor, Met officers are assessing claims of the harvesting of postal votes, the use of "ghost" voters and the improper distribution of election literature, officials have told the Guardian.

Mayoral candidates from the major parties say the fraught contest, to be held on Thursday, is far from a foregone conclusion. Some political pundits had predicted it would be an easy victory for Labour after an election court six weeks ago forced the politically independent leader from office.

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