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Stealing the Iranian Election?
Ongoing debate below.
Iran protest cancelled as leaked election results show Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came third
Iran's reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi has called off a major rally to protest last Friday's election results, amid claims police had been cleared to open fire on protesters.
Supporters had been due to turn out en masse in Tehran on Monday afternoon, despite government warnings to stay off the streets.
But this morning, a statement on Mr Mousavi's campaign website announced that the demonstration had been postponed – although it said Mr Mousavi would go to the site to ensure any supporters who showed up remained calm.
From Andrew Sullivan:
Yes, the president of Iran's own election monitoring commission has declared the result invalid and called for a do-over.
By Juan Cole:
Top Pieces of Evidence that the Iranian Presidential Election Was Stolen
1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and
. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections,
who hailed from that province.
2. Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities, even, as he claims, in the poor neighborhoods, in part because his policies have produced high inflation and high unemployment. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers. [Ahmadinejad is widely thought only to have won Tehran in 2005 because the pro-reform groups were discouraged and stayed home rather than voting.)
3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he
. He is a Lur and is popular in the west, including in Kurdistan. Karoubi received 17 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections in 2005. While it is possible that his support has substantially declined since then, it is hard to believe that he would get less than one percent of the vote. Moreover, he should have at least done well in the west, which he did not.
4. Mohsen Rezaie, who polled very badly and seems not to have been at all popular, is alleged to have received 670,000 votes, twice as much as Karoubi.
5. Ahmadinejad's numbers were fairly standard across Iran's provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations.
6. The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results.
I am aware of the difficulties of catching history on the run. Some explanation may emerge for Ahmadinejad's upset that does not involve fraud. For instance, it is possible that he has gotten the credit for spreading around a lot of oil money in the form of favors to his constituencies, but somehow managed to escape the blame for the resultant high inflation.
But just as a first reaction, this post-election situation looks to me like a crime scene. And here is how I would reconstruct the crime.
As the real numbers started coming into the Interior Ministry late on Friday, it became clear that Mousavi was winning.
that the ministry even contacted Mousavi's camp and said it would begin preparing the population for this victory.
The ministry must have informed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has had a feud with Mousavi for over 30 years, who found this outcome unsupportable. And, apparently, he and other top leaders had been so confident of an Ahmadinejad win that they had made no contingency plans for what to do if he looked as though he would lose.
They therefore sent blanket instructions to the Electoral Commission to falsify the vote counts.
This clumsy cover-up then produced the incredible result of an Ahmadinejad landlside in Tabriz and Isfahan and Tehran.
The reason for which Rezaie and Karoubi had to be assigned such implausibly low totals was to make sure Ahmadinejad got over 51% of the vote and thus avoid a run-off between him and Mousavi next Friday, which would have given the Mousavi camp a chance to attempt to rally the public and forestall further tampering with the election.
This scenario accounts for all known anomalies and is consistent with what we know of the major players.
: "Ahmadinejad reelected under cloud of fraud," where I argue that the outcome of the presidential elections does not and should not affect Obama's policies toward that country-- they are the right policies and should be followed through on regardless.
The public demonstrations against the result don't appear to be that big. In the past decade, reformers have always backed down in Iran when challenged by hardliners, in part because no one wants to relive the horrible Great Terror of the 1980s after the revolution, when faction-fighting produced blood in the streets. Mousavi is still from that generation.
My own guess is that you have to get a leadership born after the revolution, who does not remember it and its sanguinary aftermath, before you get people willing to push back hard against the rightwingers.
So, there are protests against an allegedly stolen election. The Basij paramilitary thugs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards will break some heads. Unless there has been a sea change in Iran, the theocrats may well get away with this soft coup for the moment. But the regime's legitimacy will take a critical hit, and its ultimate demise may have been hastened, over the next decade or two.
What I've said is full of speculation and informed guesses. I'd be glad to be proved wrong on several of these points. Maybe I will be.
PS: Here's the data:
"Of 39,165,191 votes counted (85 percent), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election with 24,527,516 (62.63 percent)."
He announced that Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second with 13,216,411 votes (33.75 percent).
Mohsen Rezaei got 678,240 votes (1.73 percent)
Mehdi Karroubi with 333,635 votes (0.85 percent).
He put the void ballots at 409,389 (1.04 percent).
Some observations on the Iranian presidential election and its aftermath
By Phil Wilayto -- June 13, 2009
As this is being written, official announcements in Iran today of a landslide victory by incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are being met with cries of “fraud” by supporters of his principal challenger, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi.
The New York Times is reporting that “at least one person had been shot dead in clashes with the police in Vanak Square in Tehran. Smoke from burning vehicles and tires hung over the city late Saturday.”
It seems clear which side has started the violence. From today's Times:
“'Death to the coup d’état!' chanted a surging crowd of several thousand protesters, many of whom wore Mr. Moussavi’s [sic] signature bright green campaign colors, as they marched in central Tehran on Saturday afternoon. 'Death to the dictator!' Farther down the street, clusters of young men hurled rocks at a phalanx of riot police officers, and the police used their batons to beat back protesters. There were reports of demonstrations in other major Iranian cities as well. ... As night settled in, the streets in northern Tehran that recently had been the scene of pre-election euphoria were lit by the flames of trash fires and blocked by tipped trash bins and at least one charred bus. Young men ran through the streets throwing paving stones at shop windows, and the police pursued them.”
(Note: Northern Tehran is the more affluent part of the city. There were no reports of protest in the much poorer southern part of the capital.)
While there's still time to rationally look at the elections, I'd like to offer a few observations.
The dominant view among Western commentators, as well as some progressive members of the Iranian diaspora, is that Mousavi is a “reformer” who favors loosening restrictions on civil liberties within Iran, while being more open to a less hostile relationship with the West. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, is described as a “hardliner” who demagogically appeals to the poor, while making deliberately provocative statements about the United States and Israel in order to bolster his standing in the Islamic world.
In my opinion, both of the above characterizations are superficial. The fundamental contradiction between the two leading candidates has to do with their respective bases of support and, more importantly, their different approaches to the economy.
Ahmadinejad, himself born into rural poverty, clearly has the support of the poorer classes, especially in the countryside, where nearly half the population lives. Why? In part because he pays attention to them, makes sure they receive some benefits from the government and treats them and their religious views and traditions with respect. Mousavi, on the other hand, the son of an urban merchant, clearly appeals more to the urban middle classes, especially the college-educated youth. This being so, why would anyone be surprised that Ahmadinejad carried the vote by a clear majority? Are there now more yuppies in Iran than poor people?
Why is there so little discussion of the issue of class in this election? Is it because so many professional and semi-professional commentators on Iran are themselves from the same class as Mousavi's supporters, and so instinctively identify with them? Myself, I'm a worker, and a former union organizer. When I watched the videos and viewed the photos of the pro-Mousavi rallies in Tehran and other cities, I didn't feel elated – I felt a chill. To me, this didn't look like a liberal reform movement, it felt like a movement whose real target is a government that exercises a “preferential option for the poor,” to use the words of Christian liberation theology.
How about the economy?
A big issue in Iran – virtually never discussed in the U.S. media – is how to interpret Article 44 of the country's constitution. That article states that the economy must consist of three sectors: state-owned, cooperative and private, and that “all large-scale and mother industries” are to be entirely owned by the state. This includes the oil and gas industries, which provide the government with the majority of its revenue. This is what enables the government, in partnership with the large charity foundations, to fund the vast social safety net that allows the country's poor to live much better lives than they did under the U.S.-installed Shah.
In 2004, Article 44 was amended to allow for some privatization. Just how much, and how swiftly that process should proceed, is a fundamental dividing line in Iranian politics. Mousavi has promised to speed up the privatization process. And when he first announced he would run for the presidency, he called for moving away from an “alms-based “ economy (PressTV, 4/13/09), an obvious reference to Ahmadinejad's policies of providing services and benefits to the poor.
In addition to their different class bases and approaches to the economy, Ahmadinejad presents an uncompromising front against the West, and especially against the U.S. government. This is a source of great national pride, and has produced some positive results. For example, President Obama has now actually admitted, at least in part, that it was the U.S. that in 1953 overthrew the democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh.
The whole idea that tossing Ahmadinejad out of office would make it easier to change U.S. policy toward Iran is, in my opinion, very naive. Was Dr. Mossadegh a crazy demagogue? No, but he did lead the movement to nationalize Iran's oil industry. If Mousavi, as president, were to strongly state that he would refuse to consider any surrender of Iran's sovereign right to develop nuclear power for peaceful energy purposes, that he would continue to support the resistance organizations Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, that he would continue to try and increase Iran's political role in the Middle East, and that he would defend state ownership of the oil and gas industries, would the Western media portray him as a reasonable man?
Further, there's the nature of Mousavi's election campaign. Obama called it a “robust” debate, which it certainly was, and a good refutation of the lie that Iran has no democracy. But it is also a political movement, one capable of drawing large crowds out into the streets, ready to engage in street battles with the president's supporters and now the police.
Is it possible that the U.S. government, its military and its 16 intelligence agencies are piously standing on the sidelines of this developing conflict, respecting Iran's right to work out its internal differences on its own? Could we expect that approach from the same government that still maintains its own 30-year sanctions against Iran, is responsible for three sets of U.N.-imposed sanctions, annually spends $70-90 million to fund “dissident” organizations within Iran and, according to the respected investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, actually has U.S. military personnel on the ground within Iran, supporting terrorist organizations like the Jundallah and trying to foment armed rebellions against the government?
The point has been made that U.S. neocons were hoping for an Ahmadinejad victory, on the theory that he makes a convenient target for Iran-bashers. But the neocons are no longer in power in Washington. They got voted out of office and are back to writing position papers for right-wing think tanks. We now have a “pragmatic” administration, one that would like to first dialog with the countries it seeks to control.
I think what is important to realize is that Washington wasn't just hoping for a “reform” candidate to win the election – it's been hoping for an anti-government movement that looks to the West for its political and economic inspiration. Mousavi backer and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is a free-market advocate and businessman whom Forbes magazine includes in its list of the world's richest people. Does Rafsanjani identify with or seek to speak for the poor? Does Mousavi?
What kind of Iran are the Mousavi forces really hoping to create? And why is Washington – whose preference for “democracy” is trumped every time by its insatiable appetite for raw materials, cheap labor, new markets and endless profits – so sympathetic to the “reform” movements in Iran and in every other country whose people have nationalized its own resources?
Would Iran be better off with a president who, instead of qualifying everything he says about the Holocaust, just came out directly and said, “Look, there's no question that millions of Jewish people were murdered in a campaign of genocide, but how does that justify creating a Jewish state on land that is the ancestral home of the Palestinians?” That would certainly make the job of anti-war activists much easier - and if you look hard enough, you can find something close to those words in Ahmadinejad's statements.
But it wouldn't be enough. The U.S. government and its complementary news media would just find another hook on which to hang their demonization of Iran and its government.
The days ahead promise to be challenging ones for all those who oppose war, sanctions and interference in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As we pursue that work, it would be good not to get caught up in what is sure to be a tsunami of criticism of a government trying to resolve a crisis that in all likelihood is not entirely homegrown.
Phil Wilayto is the editor of The Virginia Defender newspaper and author of “In Defense of Iran: Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation's Journey through the Islamic Republic.” He can be reached: DefendersFJE@hotmail.com
More from Juan Cole:
Class v. Culture Wars in Iranian Elections: Rejecting Charges of a North Tehran Fallacy
Some comentators have suggested that the reason Western reporters were shocked when Ahmadinejad won was that they are based in opulent North Tehran, whereas the farmers and workers of Iran, the majority, are enthusiastic for Ahmadinejad. That is, we fell victim once again to upper middle class reporting and expectations in a working class country of the global south.
While such dynamics may have existed, this analysis is flawed in the case of Iran because it pays too much attention to class and material factors and not enough to Iranian culture wars. We have already seen, in 1997 and 2001, that Iranian women and youth swung behind an obscure former minister of culture named Mohammad Khatami and his 2nd of Khordad movement, capturing not only the presidency but also, in 2000, parliament.
Khatami received 70 percent of the vote in 1997. He then got 78% of the vote in 2001, despite a crowded field. In 2000, his reform movement captured 65% of the seats in parliament. He is a nice man, but you couldn't exactly categorize him as a union man or a special hit with farmers.
The evidence is that in the past little over a decade, Iran's voters had become especially interested in expanding personal liberties, in expanding women's rights, and in a wider field of legitimate expression for culture (not just high culture but even just things like Iranian rock music). The extreme puritanism of the hardliners grated on people.
The problem for the reformers of the late 1990s and early 2000s was that they did not actually control much, despite holding elected office. Important government policy and regulation was in the hands of the unelected, clerical side of the government. The hard line clerics just shut down reformist newspapers, struck down reformist legislation, and blocked social and economic reform. The Bush administration was determined to hang Khatami out to dry, ensuring that the reformers could never bring home any tangible success in foreign policy or foreign investment. Thus, in the 2004 parliamentary elections, literally thousands of reformers were simply struck off the ballot and not allowed to run. This application of a hard line litmus test in deciding who could run for office produced a hard line parliament, naturally enough.
But in 2000, it was clear that the hard liners only had about 20% of the electorate on their side.
By 2005, the hard liners had rolled back all the reforms and the reform camp was sullen and defeated. They did not come out in large numbers for the reformist candidate, Karoubi, who only got 17 percent of the vote. They nevertheless were able to force a run-off between hard line populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative billionaire. Ahmadinejad won.
But Ahmadinejad's 2005 victory was made possible by the widespread boycott of the vote or just disillusionment in the reformist camp, meaning that fewer youth and women bothered to come out.
So to believe that the 20% hard line support of 2001 has become 63% in 2009, we would have to posit that Iran is less urban, less literate and less interested in cultural issues today than 8 years ago. We would have to posit that the reformist camp once again boycotted the election and stayed home in droves.
No, this is not a north Tehran/ south Tehran issue. Khatami won by big margins despite being favored by north Tehran.
So observers who want to lay a guilt trip on us about falling for Mousavi's smooth upper middle class schtick are simply ignoring the last 12 years of Iranian history. It was about culture wars, not class. It is simply not true that the typical Iranian voter votes conservative and religious when he or she gets the chance. In fact, Mousavi is substantially more conservative than the typical winning politician in 2000. Given the enormous turnout of some 80 percent, and given the growth of Iran's urban sector, the spread of literacy, and the obvious yearning for ways around the puritanism of the hard liners, Mousavi should have won in the ongoing culture war.
And just because Ahmadinejad poses as a champion of the little people does not mean that his policies are actually good for workers or farmers or for working class women (they are not, and many people in that social class know that they are not).
So let that be an end to the guilt trip. The Second of Khordad Movement was a winning coalition for the better part of a decade. Its supporters are 8 years older than the last time they won, but it was a young movement. Did they all do a 180 and defect from Khatami to Ahmadinejad? Unlikely. The Iranian women who voted in droves for Khatami haven't gone anywhere, and they did not very likely much care for Ahmadinejad's stances on women's issues:
'In a BBC News interview, Mahbube Abbasqolizade, a member of the Iranian Women’s Centre NGO, said, “Mr. Ahmadinejad’s policies are that women should return to their homes and that their priority should be the family.”
* Ahmadinejad changed the name of the government organization the “Centre for Women’s Participation” to the “Centre for Women and Family Affairs”.
* Ahmadinejad proposed a new law that would reintroduce a man’s right to divorce his wife without informing her. In addition, men would no longer be required to pay alimony. In response, women’s groups have initiated the Million Signatures campaign against these measures.
* Ahmadinejad’s administration opposes the ratification of the UN protocol called CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. This doctrine is essentially an international women’s Bill of Rights.
* Ahmadinejad implemented the Social Safety program, which monitors women’s clothing, requires the permission from a father or husband for a woman to attend school, and applies quotas limiting the number of women allowed to attend universities.'
Mir Hosain Mousavi was a plausible candidate for the reformists. They were electing people like him with 70 and 80 percent margins just a few years ago. We have not been had by the business families of north Tehran. We've much more likely been had by a hard line constituency of at most 20% of the country, who claim to be the only true heirs of the Iranian revolution, and who control which ballots see the light of day.
Has the Election Been Stolen in Iran?
By Stephen Zunes, AlterNet
Posted on June 13, 2009, Printed on June 14, 2009
It is certainly not unprecedented for Western observers to miscalculate the outcome of an election in a country where pre-election polls are not as rigorous as Western countries, particularly when there is a clear bias towards a particular candidate. At the same time, the predictions of knowledgeable Iranian observers from various countries and from across the political spectrum were nearly unanimous in the belief that the leading challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi would defeat incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decisively in yesterday’s presidential election, certainly in the runoff if not in the first round. This also appeared to be the assumption among independent observers in Iran itself.
So overwhelming were the signs of imminent Ahmadinejad defeat and so massive was the margin of his alleged victory, the only reasonable assumption was that there has been fraud on a massive scale. What polls did exist showed Mousavi leading by a clear majority and Ahmadinejad well under 40%, a margin roughly similar to what most analysts had suggested based on anecdotal evidence. Instead, the official results show Ahmadinejad winning by an overwhelming 63% of the vote.
The unmistakable political trend in Iran in the past four years has been toward greater liberalism and moderation, particularly with the addition of millions of new younger voters who are overwhelmingly disenchanted with Ahmadinejad’s ultra-conservative social policies and failed economic policies. The very idea that he would do substantially better than he did in the election four years ago, therefore, is ludicrous at face value. Indeed, in municipal and other elections held over the past couple of years, Ahmadinejad’s preferred slates lost heavily to moderate conservatives and reformers.
Ahmadinejad won a tight presidential race four years ago campaigning as an economic populist, gaining wide support among the poor for his calls for reducing inequality and fighting endemic corruption. However, his administration has been at least as corrupt as his predecessors, his economic policies have resulted in high inflation and high unemployment, and he has been ruthless is suppressing labor unions, such as the bus drivers strike in Tehran. As a result, his popularity has plummeted, making the idea of substantially greater popular support today particularly questionable.
There are also more direct indications of fraud.
In past elections, there have been substantial variations in the vote of various candidates based on ethnicity and geography, but the official results show Ahmadinejad’s vote totals being relatively uniform across the country. Mousavi, an Azeri from the province of Azerbaijan who has been quite popular there, did poorly, according to official results. This is particularly striking since even minor candidates from that area had done disproportionately well in previous elections. Similarly, Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate and an ethnic Lur, supposedly fared poorly in his home province of Luristan. Nationally, Karoubi went from 17% in the 2005 election to less than 1% this year with no apparent reason for such a precipitous decline. Meanwhile, the much-despised Mohsen Rezaie, the other hardline candidate, allegedly got twice as many votes.
Among the most implausible part of the official results is the claim that Ahmadinejad won a clear majority in the capital of Tehran. In reality, most knowledgeable observers have estimated that he has the support of barely half the population in his stronghold in the southern part of the city while he is overwhelmingly despised elsewhere in that city of 12 million. Had Ahmadinejad somehow been able to eke out a legitimate victory, it would have come from the rural areas, not urban strongholds of the opposition like Tehran and Tabriz.
Iran’s Electoral Commission, rather than waiting the customary three days before having the Grand Ayatollah Khamenei certify the results of the election, instead had Khamenei approve the alleged results immediately, presumably as early returns showed the likelihood of a substantial Mousavi victory. While in previous elections the results were announced by each voting district, which would allow at least some degree of follow-up regarding their validity, this time the results were announced only at the citywide of provincial level. Already, Interior Ministry employees are beginning to speak out about witnessing the fabrication of phony vote totals.
The electoral system under the Islamic Republic has always been tightly controlled to the point that the Guardian Council pre-screened potential candidates for what they considered to be appropriate adherence to their theocratic order. However, within that rather limited range of legitimacy, previous elections were deemed relatively free and fair. This massive fraud, then, is unprecedented. Indeed, as security forces seized newspapers and other media election night to ensure the fraud would not be reported and government has shut down much of the country’s electronic communication, Iranians spoke in terms of what appears to be nothing less than a internal coup.
While there is much to criticize about U.S. policy towards Iran over the years as well as the double-standards of the U.S. government regarding election-rigging and autocratic rule among its allies, there should be no denial that yesterday’s presidential election in Iran involved fraud on a massive scale.
The stealing of the Iranian presidential elections is a dream come true for American neo-conservatives and others pushing for a more confrontational approach with Iran. It is imperative that we not allow the hard-liners of either country an illegitimate victory and give our support to Iranian democrats in their struggle to reclaim their country.
© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/140626/
Based on Terror Free Tomorrow Poll, Ahmadinejad Victory Was Expected
By Robert Naiman
Judging from commentary in the blogosphere, many Americans are already
convinced by suggestions that have been carried in the media that the
Presidential election in Iran was stolen. [Some press reports have
been a bit more careful: the lead paragraph of the front page story in
Sunday's New York Times says that "it is impossible to know for sure"
if the result reflects the popular will.]
But the evidence that has been presented so far that the election was
stolen has not been convincing.
Iran does not allow independent international election observers, and
there is a scarcity of independent, systematic data.
But shortly before the election, Terror Free Tomorrow and the New
America Foundation published a poll that was financed by the
Rockefeller Brothers Foundation. Based on this poll, the official
result - a victory for Ahmadinejad in the first round - was entirely
predictable. "Ahmadinejad Front Runner in Upcoming Presidential
Elections," the poll reported.
The poll was conducted between May 11 and May 20, and claimed a margin
of error of 3.1%. Among its respondents, 34% said they would vote for
incumbent President Ahmadinejad, 14% said they would vote for Mir
Hussein Moussavi, 2% said they would vote for Mehdi Karroubi, and 1%
said they would vote for Mohsen Rezai. Declared support for these four
candidates represented 51% of the sample; 27% of the sample said they
didn't know who they would vote for. [This accounts for 78% of the
sample; the survey report doesn't explicitly characterize the other
22% of the sample, but presumably they were divided between those who
did not intend to vote and those who refused to respond to the
question. The survey reported that 89% of Iranians said they intended
If one merely extrapolated from the reported results - that is, if one
assumed that the people who refused to respond or who didn't know
voted for the four candidates in the same proportions as their
counterparts who named candidates, the following result would have
occurred on June 12:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - 66.7%
Mir Hussein Moussavi - 27.5%
Mehdi Karroubi - 3.9%
Mohsen Rezai - 2.0%
The Iranian Interior Ministry said Saturday afternoon that Ahmadinejad
received in the actual election 62.6% of the vote, with Moussavi
receiving just under 34%, the Times reported.
Now, of course it is reasonable to suppose that the opposition might
well have taken a greater share of the previously undecided vote than
the share of the decided vote that they already had. Indeed, the
Terror Free Tomorrow poll reported:
"A close examination of our survey results reveals that the race
may actually be closer than a first look at the numbers would
indicate. More than 60 percent of those who state they don't know who
they will vote for in the Presidential elections reflect individuals
who favor political reform and change in the current system."
So suppose that we allocate 60% of the 27% who told pollsters they
didn't know to the two "reform" candidates, Moussavi and Karroubi; and
40% of the undecided vote to the two "conservative" candidates,
Ahmadinejad and Rezai. And within each camp, suppose we allocate the
votes according to the proportion of reform or conservative votes they
had among those in the survey who named candidates. In that case, this
would have been the result on June 12:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - 57%
Mir Hussein Moussavi - 36%
Mehdi Karroubi - 5%
Mohsen Rezai - 2%
When you account for the scaling up of the numbers from the poll,
these numbers differ from the Interior Ministry numbers by less than
the poll's margin of error.
The Terror Free Tomorrow poll had another important result. One of the
arguments being made that there must certainly have been fraud is the
claim that Ahmadinejad could not possibly have won the Azeri city of
Tabriz, as was reported by the official results, since Mousavi, who is
Azeri, is from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital.
Juan Cole, for example, makes this argument.
Here's what the Terror Free Tomorrow poll had to say about that:
"Inside Iran, considerable attention has been given to Mr.
Moussavi's Azeri background, emphasizing the appeal his Azeri identity
may have for Azeri voters. The results of our survey indicate that
only 16 percent of Azeri Iranians indicate they will vote for Mr.
Moussavi. By contrast, 31 percent of the Azeris claim they will vote
for Mr. Ahmadinejad."
Thus, according to Terror Free Tomorrow, Ahmadinejad had a 2-1 lead
among Azeris over Moussavi.
It shouldn't be shocking to anyone who carefully follows U.S. news
coverage of foreign countries - particularly "adversary" countries -
that in the absence of good data, Western observers would come to the
conclusion that Moussavi had majority support. There is an unavoidable
tilt in the reporting of Western observers. The Iranians that Western
observers talk to - like the Venezuelans and Bolivians that Western
observers talk to - are a skewed sample of the population:
disproportionately English-speaking, disproportionately well-off,
disproportionately critical of their governments. That's why anecdotes
and observations are no substitute for hard data.
Of course, none of this proves that the election was clean and
legitimate. But it does suggest that claims that it was "impossible"
for Ahmadinejad to win a fair election should be treated with extreme
skepticism. On the contrary, based on the Terror Free Tomorrow poll,
not only was it plausible that Ahmadinejad would win - it was
Certainly, Juan Cole is right when he says that regardless of the
election result, the Obama Administration should press forward with
its diplomatic engagement with Iran - as the Administration has
promised to do.
But we ought to reserve judgment on claims that the Iranian
Presidential election was stolen until such claims are substantiated.
From Stephen Zunes:
The other things to consider regarding the TFT poll:
* high undecideds, especially when combined with higher than expected turnouts, tend to go overwhelmingly for the challenger, not the incumbent
* that same poll showed 60% of the undecideds were of a pro-reformists/change orientation (presumably torn between Mousavi and Karoubi, which would presumably lean heavily toward Mousavi in the final month as it became obvious it was a two-man race)
* in a society where there are a whole number of levels of secret and not-so-secret police/ideological enforcers/etc., there would be a tendency to tell a stranger asking your opinion to play it safe and say you're voting for the incumbent
* it directly contradicts the trend in recent municipal elections, where Ahmadinejad's slates have done poorly and Mousavi-type moderate conservative reformers did well
* I'm not aware that methodologically the TFT was any more accurate than some other polls, such as the one cited in the New York Times on July 7 noting a surge in Mousavi's support, with him leading by a 54%-39% margin (though I'm not aware of it being less so either)
From Robert Naiman:
In my analysis, in my second calculation I gave 60% of the undecideds
to the opposition; in my third calculation I gave 60% of both the
undecideds and the non-respondents to the opposition. In each case,
one still finds an absolute majority for Ahmadinejad in the first
Note that while the turnout was 85%, the poll predicted 89%. So it's
not like increased turnout reflected a huge other category of people
not considered by the poll.
Right. That's why I gave 60% of the undecideds to the opposition. Of
course, if even if you give all of the reform vote to Moussavi and 0%
to Karoubi, it has no impact on whether Ahmadinejad has more than 50%
of the vote.
Perhaps; although 66% of the respondents were comfortable either
saying that they were supporting another candidate, or were undecided,
or not responding; and presumably much of the effect you describe is
captured for by the don't knows and the no-response, which is already
accounted for in the analysis.
What was the turnout in those elections? In the US municipal elections
would be a very poor predictor of national elections, particularly a
national election in which turnout was 85% of the electorate.
You mean June 7? An article by Robert Worth on June 7 says
"Rallies for Mr. Moussavi have drawn tens of thousands of people in
recent days, and a new unofficial poll suggests his support has
markedly increased, with 54 percent of respondents saying they would
vote for him compared with 39 percent for Mr. Ahmadinejad."
But it doesn't say anything about who did the poll or what its
methodology was. As you know, there seems to be a general consensus
that Iranian polling is suspect.
As you also know, Terror Free Tomorrow has impeccable establishment
credentials, and its poll was financed by the Rockefeller Brothers
Foundation. That doesn't prove it's accurate, but it's not to be
Another observer told me that any poll before the televised elections would miss millions deciding to vote for Moussavi rather than stay home, but Naiman pointed out the high percentage in the poll saying they planned to vote. --DS
The Iranian People Speak
By Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, Washington Post
The election results in Iran may reflect the will of the Iranian people. Many experts are claiming that the margin of victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the result of fraud or manipulation, but our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin -- greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election.
While Western news reports from Tehran in the days leading up to the voting portrayed an Iranian public enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad's principal opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran's provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.
Independent and uncensored nationwide surveys of Iran are rare. Typically, preelection polls there are either conducted or monitored by the government and are notoriously untrustworthy. By contrast, the poll undertaken by our nonprofit organizations from May 11 to May 20 was the third in a series over the past two years. Conducted by telephone from a neighboring country, field work was carried out in Farsi by a polling company whose work in the region for ABC News and the BBC has received an Emmy award. Our polling was funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
The breadth of Ahmadinejad's support was apparent in our preelection survey. During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters. Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.
Much commentary has portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in this election. But our poll found that only a third of Iranians even have access to the Internet, while 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.
The only demographic groups in which our survey found Mousavi leading or competitive with Ahmadinejad were university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. When our poll was taken, almost a third of Iranians were also still undecided. Yet the baseline distributions we found then mirror the results reported by the Iranian authorities, indicating the possibility that the vote is not the product of widespread fraud.
Some might argue that the professed support for Ahmadinejad we found simply reflected fearful respondents' reluctance to provide honest answers to pollsters. Yet the integrity of our results is confirmed by the politically risky responses Iranians were willing to give to a host of questions. For instance, nearly four in five Iranians -- including most Ahmadinejad supporters -- said they wanted to change the political system to give them the right to elect Iran's supreme leader, who is not currently subject to popular vote. Similarly, Iranians chose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their government, virtually tied with improving the national economy. These were hardly "politically correct" responses to voice publicly in a largely authoritarian society.
Indeed, and consistently among all three of our surveys over the past two years, more than 70 percent of Iranians also expressed support for providing full access to weapons inspectors and a guarantee that Iran will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, in return for outside aid and investment. And 77 percent of Iranians favored normal relations and trade with the United States, another result consistent with our previous findings.
Iranians view their support for a more democratic system, with normal relations with the United States, as consonant with their support for Ahmadinejad. They do not want him to continue his hard-line policies. Rather, Iranians apparently see Ahmadinejad as their toughest negotiator, the person best positioned to bring home a favorable deal -- rather like a Persian Nixon going to China.
Allegations of fraud and electoral manipulation will serve to further isolate Iran and are likely to increase its belligerence and intransigence against the outside world. Before other countries, including the United States, jump to the conclusion that the Iranian presidential elections were fraudulent, with the grave consequences such charges could bring, they should consider all independent information. The fact may simply be that the reelection of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people wanted.
Ken Ballen is president of Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, a nonprofit institute that researches attitudes toward extremism. Patrick Doherty is deputy director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. The groups' May 11-20 polling consisted of 1,001 interviews across Iran and had a 3.1 percentage point margin of error.
MAJOR TYPOS IN NY TIMES EDITORIAL
By Michael Jay
To The Editor:
I'm afraid your spell check software got the better of you in preparing "Neither Real Nor Free," (Editorial, June 15, 2009.) It appears both the country and a key political party were misidentified.
I've included a corrected, and abbreviated, version. Too bad the Times, and other news outlets, didn't publish such articles following our 2004 election.
June 15, 2009
Neither Real Nor Free
There is no transparency or accountability in (many United States elections,) so we may never know for sure what happened in the presidential election (in 2004.) But given the (main stream media’s) even more than usually thuggish reaction, it certainly looks like fraud.
Although a (challenge) was widely expected between the two top vote-getters, the (Ohio) polls had barely closed before (the mostly right-wing media) declared victory for the hard-line president, (George W. Bush.) And it was (inexplicable): (51) percent versus (49) percent for the main challenger, (John Kerry.)
We understand why so many (Americans) found that impossible to believe. Mr. (Kerry) had drawn hugely enthusiastic crowds to his campaign rallies, and polls (especially exit polls) suggested that he, not Mr. (Bush,) was the one with the commanding lead. Even more improbably, and cynically, authorities claimed that Mr. (Bush) carried all of (the swing states) — by (statistically impossible) margins.
If the election were truly “real and free” as (Fox News) insisted, the results would be accepted by the voters and the (right wing newscasters) would not have to resort to such (revisionism about exit polls.)
After four years of Mr. (Bush's) failed economic policies and ceaseless confrontations with the (entire world) many of (America's) voters clearly were yearning for a change. Mr. (Kerry) promised that change (--yet, inexplicably, conceded before all votes were counted in the most important battleground state.) If (Democrats) refuse to recognize that yearning or respect the will of its people— the (Party) will lose even more legitimacy.
We know that some in this country will say that this election is proof that there can be no dealing with (electronic voting machines and Republican Secretaries of State who are also allowed to run their state's election campaigns,) and that (grassroots) action is the only choice.
The only choice is (for American voters to take a look in the mirror.)
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, SmirkingChimp.com
The parallels between the stolen Iranian election of 2009 and the American of 2000 and 2004 are tempting. The histories---and futures---of the two nations are inseparable. Bound up in their tortured half-century of crime and manipulation are the few glimmers of hope for lasting peace in the Middle East.
In both countries, a right-wing fundamentalist authoritarian with open contempt for human rights and the Geneva Convention has come up a winner, with catastrophic consequences. In both countries, the blowback of two George Bushes loom large.
In the US, two "defeated" candidates---Al Gore and John Kerry---said and did nothing in the face of two stolen elections. But an unprecedented election protection movement arose from the ashes of those defeats to assure the 2008 victory of America's first African- American president.
In Iran, the "defeated" candidate---Mir Hussein Moussavi---is fighting back, along with massive grassroots resistance. How far they get will define the Iranian future---as well as that of the Middle East.
In a fluid and unpredictable situation, here are some indisputables:
1) A half-century ago, the people of Iran attempted a democratic revolution led by a moderate progressive, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, whose social-democratic inclinations have been revived by Moussavi.
2) Prime Minister Mossadegh was overthrown by the Eisenhower Administration and its Central Intelligence Agency, which wanted to wall in the Soviet Union and protect western oil interests.
3) Norman Schwarzkopf, Sr. (father of the Gulf War general of the same name) used a suitcase full of US taxpayer dollars to bribe Iran's anti-democratic sympathizers and help overthrow Mossadegh.
4) They installed the pro-U.S. general Fazlollah Zahedi, who handed control of Iran to the brutal and vicious Shah. The Shah ruled through the infamous secret terror/torture police force Savak, which Schwartzkopf helped train.
4) A prototypical CIA asset, the Shah used his iron torturer's hand to "westernize" the country and make it more user-friendly to US oil interests.
5) Among other things, the U.S., France and other western powers were moving to provide the Shah with up to 36 atomic power plants designed to provide electricity and, ultimately, radioactive materials with which to build his own atomic bombs.
6) Despite his ostensible commitment to human rights, President Jimmy Carter made a point of spending a high-profile New Year's with the Shah, evoking the bitter hatred of millions of Iranians.
7) The Shah's overthrow by fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini led to the 1979-80 hostage crisis that finally sank Carter's presidency. Amidst indications of a secret deal involving past and future CIA Directors George H.W. Bush and William Casey, the release of the hostages was delayed long enough to guarantee Carter's defeat, thus inaugurating the Age of Ronald Reagan, with 12 of its 28 years under the two Bushes.
8) Secret dealings between Reagan/Bush and the Iranians led to the iran-Contra Affair, when covert operatives like Oliver North funneled arms to the Iranians and laundered cash and drugs through the reactionary Contra forces fighting revolution in Nicaragua.
9) The Contras in turn flooded the US with cocaine, feeding a horrific crack epidemic that has crippled the black and Hispanic communities here for two decades.
10) Those US-financed arms were used to fight the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein, whom the US also supported, and whom Donald Rumsfeld publicly embraced in the early 1980s. The American goal seems to have been to weaken both Iran and Iraq through a horrifying war that claimed at least a million casualties, ultimately infuriating both citizenries.
After a half-century of dictatorship under the Shah and the CIA, followed by the Ayatollah and the fundamentalists, the Iranian public appears desperate to return to the social-democratic vision of Mossadegh, denied so long ago.
In the US in 2000 and 2004, the corporate/religious right put George W. Bush in the White House---and then kept him there---with a sophisticated election theft machine built around elimination of voter registrations, manipulation of the vote count, and a wide array of supporting tactics. The US Supreme Court set it all in stone with its infamous Bush v. Gore decision, which prevented a true vote count in Florida 2000. History repeated itself in Ohio 2004.
In Iran 2009, the ruling fundamentalist elite has barely pretended to count the votes at all, merely rushing to announce a pre- determined outcome. The reigning Ayatollah has played the role of the US Supreme Court by certifying the outcome before a real ballot tally could possibly occur. Holes in the texts of Iranian newspapers and an electronic blackout created by official censors reflect the on-going vacuum in the US corporate media, which has yet to seriously face up to what happened to the American elections of 2000 and 2004.
What will happen next in Iran is anyone's guess. George W. Bush fueled its fundamentalist right by calling it a "terror state" whose nuclear weapons ambitions are fueled with materials produced by the "Peaceful Atom" Eisenhower inaugurated in 1953, around the time he was disposing of Mossadegh.
Bush's counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is now turning the state terror apparatus---reminiscent of the Shah's---against those who would mention the illegitimacy of his rule.
Thus tragedy looms at the brink of opportunity. That democracy in Iran so clearly won at the polls is a sign of great courage and hope on the part of the Iranian people. They are fighting terrible odds, not of their making. Should they break free, the storm would re- shape the Middle East---and much more.
In the meantime, perhaps their American counterparts, instructed by the ghost of Mossadegh, might finally face up to the true price of sowing such cynical, lethal whirlwinds.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection. Bob's FITRAKIS FILES are available via www.freepress.org , where this article first appeared. HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is at www.harveywasserman.com .
(CNN) -- Media rights group Reporters Without Borders is urging nations to not recognize the results of Iran's presidential election, citing censorship and a crackdown on journalists.
[Also the poll is very SMALL and margin of error uncertain. -- DS]
About Those Iran Polls
Public opinion surveys are central to the Iranian opposition's argument that the elections there were rigged for incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: they cite unspecified polls showing the main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi with a "strong lead in the final days of the campaign," according to the New York Times.
Now, a competing poll conducted by two American groups is being used as part of the pushback. In an op-ed in today's Washington Post, Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty write-up the results of their telephone poll carried out in mid-May, showing Ahmadinejad ahead "by a more than 2 to 1 margin - greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday's election."
The validity of the unreleased Iranian surveys cannot be assessed in detail, but a closer look at the one sponsored by Terror Free Tomorrow and the New America Foundation reveals ample reason to be skeptical of the conclusions drawn from it.
Methodologically, this survey passes muster as it's relatively straightforward to pull a good sample of the Iranian population, using the country's publicly available population counts and listed telephone exchanges. But the poll was conducted from May 11 to 20, well before the spike in support for Mousavi his supporters claim.
(See here for a summary of available Iran polls that finds some evidence for Mousavi momentum late in the campaign.)
More to the point, however, the poll that appears in today's op-ed shows a 2 to 1 lead in the thinnest sense: 34 percent of those polled said they'd vote for Ahmadinejad, 14 percent for Mousavi. That leaves 52 percent unaccounted for. In all, 27 percent expressed no opinion in the election, and another 15 percent refused to answer the question at all.
Six Eight percent said they'd vote for none of the listed candidates; the rest for minor candidates.
One should be enormously wary of the current value of a poll taken so far before such a heated contest, particularly one where more than half of voters did not express an opinion.
ABC News has a similar take, and apparently so did the pollsters themselves quite recently.
At the risk of undermining the vigorous debate and discussion now ongoing in response to my Saturday morning article drawing a comparison between Iran's '09 election and Ohio's '04 election (and the ongoing speculation about the reported Iranian results going on just about everywhere else today), allow me to amplify a bit on the point I was hoping to get at in that piece, written as reports were just coming in about skepticism in the reported results.
Since The BRAD BLOG began reporting on issues of democracy and concerns about elections, most intensely beginning on or about the early morning hours of November 3rd, 2004 and continuing ever since, we've likely investigated, researched and/or written as much or more on virtually every aspect of the topic as any other media outlet in the world.
In the process of observing one election after another since that time, and the increasingly inevitable ensuing questions about, as well as disbelief and/or belief in the validity of each election's results, one thing has become crystal clear: without complete transparency and 100% citizen oversight of every aspect of any given election, most notably the tabulation of its ballots, certainty in any given officially-announced result has become nearly impossible.
Without the transparency required for democracy to actually work, each "democratic" election, whether in this country, or in any other, has become more and more like Russian Roulette, but without the certainty...
At least with Russian Roulette, after the trigger is pulled, the outcome is clear to everybody.
In other words, the results of every election will either be accepted by the announced winners and/or losers, or they will blow up in the faces of those announced winners and/or losers. At least with Russian Roulette, after the trigger is pulled, the outcome is clear to everybody. Not so, unfortunately, with the way so-called democratic (small "d") elections are now routinely run, where results are generally only accepted when they match up with the public's perception of what those results should be. Usually, that judgment is based on a measure of perceptions gleaned from media coverage before, during and after, along with the perceivers political biases one way or another.
Enough with the unceasing uncertainty in and each and every election. It's unnecessary and ultimately exceedingly dangerous to the continuing well-being of democracy. (See Iran today; See what could have happened in our own streets at any time in 2000 or 2004 or even 2002, 2006 and 2008).
It is the processes of democracy which are broken, not democracy itself.
I can tell you why it is that George W. Bush "won" the election in 2004 (Bin Laden's Election Eve videotape; Soccer Moms who felt more secure with Republicans; Evangelicals who feared "liberalism"), I can also tell you why he didn't (unpopular war; voters suppressed by the tens of thousands; results rigged by the party in power). I can tell you why it is Ahmadinejad "won" over the weekend (polls showing fading support were over-hyped by U.S. media and supported by agents hoping to foment rebellion; underestimated support from rural voters who he showered with cash over the years), much as I can tell you why Mousavi was "clearly" the rightful victor (unprecedented turnout by an overwhelmingly youthful electorate; populace tired of hard-line exacerbation of tensions with the West; the "Obama Effect" following his speech in Cairo).
You pick the election and the results, and I can offer you a "logical" explanation, citing exceedingly convincing evidence to go with it, as to the reported winner has "won" or the reported loser has "lost". I can also offer a similarly compelling argument for why the "winner" was actually the loser and vice versa, in almost every case. The media has created an industry at this Art of Speculation. Throw a stick or an URL at your Internet browser or cable television or favorite newspaper and you're bound to hit such legitimate sounding guess-work today. And its all entirely meaningless, almost completely speculative and wholly based on the sometimes-informed opinion and/or personal biases of whomever happens to making their favorite case at any given moment.
While that's "fun" for many, and allows us all to be armchair "experts" (including the actual so-called "experts"), it's little more than a chimera, and ultimately, a grave and growing threat to the crucial continuance of democracy.
If democracy is to be the rendered judgment of the people, by the people and for the people, than it is the people --- not the parties, not the media, not the ruling classes, not the voting machine company's or their private hardware and software --- who must bear witness to the process if it is to be seen as legitimate.
The actual evidence, not guess-work, for who won or who lost any given election is there for all to see (save for elections run on Direct Recording Electronic, otherwise known as DRE, most often touch-screen, voting devices), if the people are allowed to actually see it.
After ballots are cast at the polling place, they must be counted at the polling place. In front of the people. In front of the citizenry and/or anyone else who would like to watch. All before ballots are moved anywhere, and before the secure chain of custody disappears into hopes for 'all the best'.
An election, decentrally counted at the polling place, in front of everyone, with polling place results announced and posted then and there --- the entire process witnessed, and even videotaped by all who have an interest and a stake --- is an exceedingly difficult election to game, at least not without being easily discovered (presuming there are equally transparent processes in place before and during voting to ensure full access by the voting populace).
Yet as long as we insist on counting in secret --- as we saw in Ohio and elsewhere in 2004, 2006, 2008 (see the New Hampshire Primary for a start, but you can also point to just about any other primary in the cycle you wish), and now in Iran in 2009 and elsewhere --- the guessing games will continue, the "experts" will make themselves more famous and/or more infamous, and the final results will be as speculative no matter who wins, and no matter what brilliant justifications, political assessment or extrapolated statistical analysis is offered to make the case for or against any given result.
Democracy deserves better. Those who claim to support it, and those who claim to have an interest in seeing it spread throughout the world, would be well served to re-examine the processes by wish democracy now happens --- most notably in this regard, its tabulation --- and the processes which are required to assure that reported results are beyond question or doubt by anyone.
The solutions are simple. The will to see it happen is another matter all together. For those of us who claim to give a damn, isn't it time we stood up to make our voices heard to demand the implementation of 100% transparent, publicly-witnessed processes that would, once and for all, put an end to the second-guessing and Monday Morning quarterbacking, so that nobody can question the results --- no matter which outcome they may have preferred?
Speculation is nice. Certainty is better. Its also, ultimately, a hell of a lot more peaceful. I can think of no better country in the world than my own to begin setting such an example for all to see and emulate. A 'shining city on a hill,' if you will...
The arguments against (and for) trusting Iran's election results
It's not uncommon to hear that the controversial chief of some rogue nation has engineered his own shady reelection. The charge has been tossed at everyone from Hugo Chavez to George W. Bush. So how should you judge the case against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
Well, it wouldn't be the blogosphere if there weren't arguments on both sides. It’s easy to get confused about it all, especially with the chaos ongoing in Iran. To help you out, Salon has compiled the most compelling arguments about the validity of the Iranian election results.
The election results are invalid
- The most influential case for the stolen election has come from Salon contributor professor Juan Cole. The official results, Cole points out, have Ahmadinejad winning areas where he didn’t plausibly have majority support. It seems unlikely that he carried his rivals’ hometowns, or regions dominated by ethnic groups of which challengers Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi were members, and Ahmadinejad was not. It’s as if George W. Bush had edged out John Kerry in Massachusetts. In fact, according to the official returns, Ahmadinejad performed relatively evenly across the country. This too is implausible, at least by historical standards. “In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations,” Cole writes. Not only are the Interior Ministry numbers suspiciously smooth, but they were produced too quickly: usually, a three-day delay.
- If Cole’s is the most influential critique of the election results, then the most influential person to publicly voice doubts has certainly been Vice President Joe Biden. Said Biden, echoing Cole on Sunday's "Meet The Press," “Seventy percent of the vote comes out of the city, that's not Ahmadinejad's strong place," Biden said. "The idea he gets 68 or whatever percent of the vote in a circumstance like that seems unlikely.”
- Before the election, it was thought that the only way Ahmadinejad would survive was for pro-reform voters to fail to turn out, points out the New Yorker’s Laura Secor. “If the current figures are to be believed, urban Iranians who voted for the reformist ex-president Mohammad Khatami in 1997 and 2001 have defected to Ahmadinejad in droves.”
- Ahmadinejad was polling in the mid-30s, notes a dubious Michael Tomasky in the Guardian. “If you've managed the economy that badly and the electorate bulges by about 28 percent (roughly speaking, 40 million to 29 million), I don't care how adept you are at religious demagoguery, you are not getting 65 percent of that 28 percent.”
- The government “didn’t even attempt to disguise the fraud,” writes Andrew Sullivan of a graph of the seven batches of votes reported over the course of the night. The graph purports to show each wave of ballot counting breaking down nearly identically, about 2-to-1 for Ahmadinejad.
- Hold on, writes Nate Silver. This may just be how elections look; in fact, it’s not hard to produce a similar graph of the 2008 election. “The apparently extremely strong relationship is mostly an artifact of the exceptionally simple fact that as you count more votes, both candidates' totals will tend to increase.” But don't assume the election was fair just because that graph fails to prove fraud. Sniffing around survey data, Silver's colleague Renard Sexton smells a rat. Ahmadinejad outran his numbers by too much, and the minor candidates didn't register the support we'd have expected. (Most remarkably, Mehdi Karoubi earned paltry vote totals in his native Lorestan and nearby Khuzestan -- which he won in 2005 with 55.5 percent and 36.7 percent, respectively.) "These figures would suggest that Ahmadinejad's reported 65 percent of the national vote is at minimum outside of the trend, and more likely, an exaggerated figure. Whether they overstate the will of the Iranian public by 3-5 points or say, 20-30 points, is up for interpretation."
The election results are valid
- Americans should get their head out of the clouds, says New America Foundation fellow Flynt Leverett. We’re just ignoring inconvenient facts about the election. For example, Ahmadinejad won the televised debate. And Mousavi’s complaints -- early polling place closures, insufficient ballots -- are hardly adequate to explaining such a lopsided outcome. “There was an extraordinary amount of wishful thinking on the part of American and Western policymakers.”
- Piling on, pollsters Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty write today in the Washington Post that their survey of Iran three weeks ago had Ahmadinejad up 2-to-1. Iranians may have conciliatory instincts toward the United States, but they want their belligerent president to represent them -- like sending Nixon to China. “The breadth of Ahmadinejad's support was apparent in our preelection survey,” they write, noting that, contra Juan Cole, the Persian Ahmadinejad was indeed beating Mousavi, an Azeri, among Azeri voters.
- (But Juan Cole is unconvinced -- Ballen and Doherty’s Op-Ed seems to forget a crucial piece of information: the actual numbers. “The poll did not find that Ahmadinejad had majority support. It found that the level of support for the incumbent was 34 percent, with Mousavi at 14 percent.” It also found, crucially, that 60 percent of respondents favored reform. Even Doherty, at the time of the survey, didn’t expect Ahmadinejad to win in the first round.)