The Next Explosion in Iran


Gunfire, tear gas, and water cannons used by baton-wielding security forces in Iran have forced an uneasy calm on Tehran and other cities, but Mir Hossein Mousavi isn’t backing down. And the next explosion could come when the Guardian Council, the twelve-member clerical body assigned the task of reviewing the results of the June 12 election releases its report. By all accounts, the Council — half of whose members are appointed by, and loyal to, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the other half is nominated by Iran’s Parliament and approved by Khamenei — will ratify President Ahmadinejad’s reelection.

In today’s post I want to focus on the election itself. A newly released statistical study of the rigged election by Chatham House raises enormous questions about the validity of the Interior Ministry’s reported vote totals. And Mousavi himself is making the point, in detailed fashion, that the vote was bogus.

The Chatham House analysis, while wonky and full of detailed charts, provides the clearest evidence yet that Ahmadinejad and Co. rigged the vote.

It shows, for instance, that in at least ten provinces, in order to have amassed the vote totals given to him, Ahmadinejad would have had to have won all the voters who backed him in 2005, all of the voters who, last time voted for the centrist candidacy of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, all of the voters who, last time, sat out the election and didn’t vote at all, and — on top of that — up to 44 percent of the voters who, in 2005, backed the reformist slate!

Example: Ahmadinejad won 765,000 votes in Hamedan province. In 2005, he received 195,000. To win the additional 570,000 votes, Ahmadinejad would have to have won all 218,000 voters who didn’t vote in 2005, all 175,000 Rafsanjani voters, and nearly a quarter of the 322,000 voters who cast their ballots for the reformists. Keep in mind that most, if not all, of the non-voters in 2005 would be people disgusted with and cynical about voting at all, the vast majority of whom would probably have cast their ballots for Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, or Mohsen Rezai this time, if they voted at all.

In province after province, the data hold.

The Chatham House data also show, conclusively, that rural voters do not support Ahmadinejad, contrary to the oft-repeated myth in the media and among many analysts. In 2005, for instance, the report shows a perfect correlation: the more rural the province, the lower Ahmadinejad’s vote in 2005. Why? "Much of Iran’s rural population is comprised of ethnic minorities: Lors, Baluch, Kurdish, and Arab amongst others. These ethnic minorities have a history of voting Reformist," says the report. In 2005, they voted overwhelmingly for Karroubi and for Mostafa Moin, not Ahmadinejad. The report, backed by detailed statistical analysis, shows that to have won the support he claims to have achieved in rural areas, Ahmadinejad would have to have won fully half of the reformist vote, a notion that the report calls "highly implausible."

It also notes, wryly, that "in two conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of more than 100 percent was recorded."

Rather stunningly, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani — a fiercely conservative partisan who, nonetheless, was a backer of Ahmadinejad’s conservative opponent in the June 12 election, Mohsen Rezai — has declared that the vote may be suspect. Here’s what he said:

 

"The Guardian Council should use every possible means to build trust and convince the protestors that their complaints will be thoroughly looked into. A majority of people are of the opinion that the actual election result is different from what was officially announced. The opinion should be respected and a line should be drawn between them and the rioters and miscreants. … Although the Guardian Council is made up of religious individuals, I wish certain members would not side with a certain presidential candidate."

 

By "certain presidential candidate," of course, Larijani means Ahmadinejad.

Mousavi himself isn’t pulling punches. He said that "disgusting measures" were used to fix the election, adding, in a letter to the mullahs of the Guardian Council:

 

"All these counts of irregularities plus many others that were mentioned in previous letters . . . are reasons to cancel the election nationwide. … The result was reversed. … The number of mobile ballot boxes was increased significantly, and there were no monitors present at those stations. Our representatives were not allowed to be present at the mobile ballot boxes during transportation. Considering the fact that there were 14,000 of those, that gave them the ability to carry out any violation of any sort. The ballot boxes were sealed before we could verify that they were not filled up before election day.

"There were 45.2 million eligible voters, and 59.6 million voting slips with serial numbers were printed. A day before the elections, there were millions more printed without serial numbers. The fact that there were so many extra voting slips itself is questionable. There is no way we could have run out of voting slips so early into the elections."

 

 

Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones.

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