Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

London Could Get First Muslim Mayor

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

London Could Get First Muslim Mayor

Article excerpt

LONDON - Londoners cast votes Thursday in an election that could give the city its first Muslim mayor, while voters elsewhere in Britain were expected to punish the main opposition Labour Party in local and regional polls. Sadiq Khan, a 45-year-old Labour lawmaker, is favorite to replace flamboyant Conservative Boris Johnson as London mayor, after a race marred by allegations of extremism and fear-mongering.

Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith used words such as "radical and "dangerous to describe Khan, and accused his opponent of giving "platforms, oxygen and even cover to Islamic extremists - a charge repeated by Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior Conservatives.

Khan, a former human rights lawyer and the son of a bus driver from Pakistan, styled himself "the British Muslim who takes the fight to the extremists.

He accused Goldsmith, a wealthy environmentalist, of trying to divide voters in one of the world's most multicultural cities, home to 8.6 million people - more than 1 million of them Muslims.

In an election-eve message, Khan promised to be "a mayor for all Londoners.

"I urge Londoners to choose hope over fear, he said.

Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics, said the introduction of a directly elected London mayor 16 years ago had introduced "an American form of government that differs from traditional British parliamentary and local government structures.

"Now intriguingly this time - and we've seen a bit of it before - it appears to have brought with it some of the harder American campaign tactics, he said.

Voters are electing a Scottish Parliament and legislatures in Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as choosing members of many English local authorities.

A victory for Khan would be a bright spot in what looks set to be a grim day for Labour, which has been out of office nationally since 2010.

Opposition parties usually gain seats in midterm elections as voters punish the sitting government. …

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