An authoritative study from Chatham House (pdf) , the renowned UK think tank, finds that with regard to the official statistics on the recent presidential election in Iran released by the Interior Ministry, something is rotten in Tehran. The authors compared the provincial returns in the 2005 and 2009 elections against the 2006 census and found:
‘ · In two Conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of
more than 100% was recorded.
· At a provincial level, there is no correlation between the increased
turnout, and the swing to Ahmadinejad. This challenges the notion
that his victory was due to the massive participation of a previously
silent Conservative majority.
· In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that
Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, and all
former centrist voters, and all new voters, but also up to 44% of former
Reformist voters, despite a decade of conflict between these two
· In 2005, as in 2001 and 1997, conservative candidates, and
Ahmadinejad in particular, were markedly unpopular in rural areas.
That the countryside always votes conservative is a myth. The claim
that this year Ahmadinejad swept the board in more rural provinces
flies in the face of these trends.’
Note that many reformists did not vote in 2005, because they had become discouraged by the way the hard liners had blocked all their programs. Some 10.5 million persons who did not vote in 2005 did vote in 2009. It is highly unlikely that most of these non-voters in 2005 were conservatives who now came out for Ahmadinejad in 2009. But to do as well as the regime claimed, Ahmadinejad would have needed to attract substantial numbers of these voters to himself.
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani got 6.2 million votes in 2005. He is a centrist, pragmatic conservative. How likely is it that his constituency abandoned pragmatic conservatism for Ahmadinejad’s quirky hard line? Over 10 million voted in 2005 for reformist candidates.
Ahmadinejad got 13 million more votes this time than the combined total for all conservatives in 2005. The authors of this study concede that Ahmadinejad could have held on to all the 11.5 million hard line voters from 2005. But how likely is that, really? Some of those who voted hard line surely found Ahmadinejad’s style abrasive and his policies, such as provoking high inflation through pumping too much oil money into the economy as a reward to his constituents, annoying.
So over all, let’s say he captured Rafsanjani’s entire faction in the face of Rafsanjani’s own dislike of him. That would have give him less than half of his new votes. So he would have had to convinced over half of the voters who sat 2005 out to vote for him; but those were the ones most disgusted with the hardliners. Or he would have needed to win over substantial amounts of the old Khatami reformist vote. Not likely.
And in 10 of 30 provinces, the hard liners did poorly enough in 2005 that Ahmadinejad would have had to gain the votes of all those who did not vote that year but did vote in 2009, of all the Rafsanjani pragmatic conservatives, and of nearly half the reformist vote.
Even in East Azerbaijan, here were the numbers in 2005
Hard Liners 232,043
Rafsanjani (pragmatic conservatives): 268,954
and the result in 2009:
We could say that a little over 400,000 of these votes are not surprising, since that is the number that was hard line in 2005. But Ahmadinejad picked up over 700,000 votes after 4 years. The non-voters may probably mostly be counted as reformists. So again, Ahmadinejad needed all the non-voters in 2005 to switch to him in 2009 plus a large proportion of the Rafsanjani voters. It makes not sense. And this outcome requires us to believe he picked up all those votes among people who deeply disliked him 4 years ago despite running against a favorite son from Azerbaijan! (And no, that Ahmadinejad speaks broken Azeri would not make Azeris vote for him any more than Latinos voted in 2008 for all those Republicans who speak good Spanish.)
As I had noted earlier, the official results ask us to believe that rural ethnic minorities (some of them Sunni!) who had long voted reformist or for candidates of their ethnicity or region, had switched over to Ahmadinejad. We have to believe that Mehdi Karroubi’s support fell from over 6 million to 330,000 over all, and that he, an ethnic Lur, was defeated in Luristan by a hard line Persian Shiite. Or that Ahmadinejad went from having 22,000 votes in largely Sunni Kurdistan to about half a million! What, is there a new organization, “Naqshbandi Sunni Sufis for Hard Line Shiism?” It never made any sense. People who said it did make sense did not know what a Naqshbandi is. (Quick, ask them before they can look it up at wikipedia).
I was careful in my initial discussion of why I thought the numbers looked phony to say that catching history on the run is tough; and I later characterized myself as a mere social historian (i.e. not a pollster or statistician). But this study bears out most of my analysis with the exception that the authors dispute any rural bias toward Ahmadinejad. I think they are too categorical in this regard, however. When people, including myself, said that rural people liked Ahmadinejad, we meant Shiites living in Persian-speaking villages on the Iranian plateau, in fair proximity to cities such as Isfahan, Tehran and Shiraz. We weren’t talking about Turkmen or Kurds (both Sunnis), or about Lurs (everyone suspected Karroubi would get that vote). I suspect that some of those to whom we referred as rural are being categorized as living in ‘small towns’ by the Chatham House authors. But field workers even in the Shiite, Persian-speaking villages point out that they often encounter anti-Ahmadinejad sentiments there, as well.
But that is neither here nor there. The numbers do not add up. You can’t have more voters than there are people. You can’t have a complete liberal and pragmatic-conservative swing behind hard liners who make their lives miserable.
The election was stolen. It is there in black and white. Those of us who know Iran, could see it plain as the nose on our faces, even if we could not quantify our reasons as elegantly as Chatham House.
The Nation will soon have a fine piece by Robert Dreyfuss on this study.
End/ (Not Continued)