Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

Vote Fraud in Iran

I’m curious to see how this story develops. It’s obvious that the Western press really wants to write Ahmedinejad’s victory up to fraud, and they’re clearly (as I am) pre-disposed towards Mouravi.

That said, I wouldn’t necessarily believe the Mousavi camps allegations without serious doubts. The campaigns were petty and vicious, and while Mouravi seems better than Ahmedinejad from a Western perspective, do any of the speculating pundits really know anything about him?

Al Arabiya, and Al Jazeera, while acknowledging the significance of the protests (the largest since ’79), have accepted that the election was legitimately taken by Ahmedinejad, and my guess is that their information is better. If that is true, then the outcome sucks, but if the West persists in denying the legitimacy of the election against the evidence, it will only feed the narrative that the West only likes democracy when the right candidate wins, and further radicalize the population.

Criticism of a leader as irresponsible and outright kooky as Ahmedinejad is absolutely necessary, as is criticizing the deeply counter democratic Council of Guradians. But throwing the kitchen sink at Iran; attacking the process—if those attacks run against demonstrable truth—in fact weakens the West’s critical position. Also, it threatens to delegitimate the most democratic institution in the country. One that has been, and could and should be an inroad for moderation.

If though, it is found that there was in fact widespread fraud (such that it could plausibly have tipped the balance). More power to the new revolutionaries.

UPDATE: If true, very bad sign:

Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi was arrested Saturday shortly after he was defeated at the polls by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an unofficial source reported.

According to the source, the presidential hopeful was arrested en route to the home of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that were a number of contradictory reports from Iran on Saturday, in a large part due to the heavy restrictions imposed on the media in the Islamic Republic, in particular on foreign reporters.

If he was going to try to seize the Ayatollah, I’m not surprised. He may just have been going to seek an appeal. Let’s see how this develops…

UPDATE II: From Al Arabiya now:

Analysts doubt election results

Meanwhile several analysts charged Iran election results were “not credible” given several indicators of vote rigging as Mousavi lost the balloting in his own hometown and Mehdi Karroubi, the other reformist candidate, received less than one percent of the total vote according to the Iranian committee’s official counts.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated this level of fraudulence. This was a selection, not an election,” Karim Sadjapour, analyst at the Cargegie Endowment for International Peace told Reuters. “In retrospect it appears this entire campaign was a show: (Supreme Leader) Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei wasn’t ever going to let Ahmadinejad lose.”

UPDATE III: Sullivan’s got an exciting translated scoop. He quotes:

A committee of respected Ayatollahs (the spiritual fighters) have requested that the election be invalidated for the purpose of restoring the people’s trust in the Islamic Republic.  We request the people to stay calm and not to provoke the government agents.

UPDATE IV: The NIAC is liveblogging the events and is much better grounded in the fax than I:

3:18 update: The President of the Committee of Election Monitoring: The Election is Invalid

Hojjat-ol-Eslam Yali Akbar MohteshamiPour officially requested that the Guardian Council to cancel this election and schedule a new election balanced and moderated democratically with the widespread and national presence of the people.

The Iranian Electoral Commission (Sianat az ara) was approved by all
candidates to monitor the election results

Conflicting reports, now, about Mousavi’s supposed arrest.

UPDATE V: Check out the NYT’s lede blog:

Several readers have pointed to this mathematical analysis charting the share of the vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Moussavi as it was announced by the interior ministry — which seems to have remained remarkably consist throughout the counting, with Mr. Ahmadinejad always getting twice the share of the vote as Mr. Moussavi. We cannot independently verify that the chart is accurate, but mention it as something that is informing the discussion of the results online. Tehran Bureau attributes the analysis to an Iranian Web site, JameJamonline.ir.

I stand pretty close to convinced that this isn’t just Western wishful thinking.

UPDATE VI: From the NIAC blog:

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 is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates 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.

3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he did poorly in Iran’s western provinces, even losing in Luristan. 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.

UPDATE VII: Nate Silver responds and is not convinced. His response is limited though to the graph mentioned in the Lede blog (above) which shows a near straight line in election reports (which many have found dubious). What he doesn’t respond to are the regional discripancies mentioned by the NIAC in the previous update.

UPDATE VIII: Just watched cable news over a snack for the last half-hour. CNN didn’t talk about anything but Iran. Fox didn’t mention it. Could just be that I tuned in during an unrepresentative window, but the segments were on the crappiness of aging, and whether or not to reinvest in the stock market. Hmm. Perhaps does a pluralistic Iran, and a democratically contested Ahmedinejad not fit into Fox’ narrative of brutal authoritarian Islamic evil Persian monolithic Ahmedinejad dictatorship?

You see something similar on the Drudge Report, where Mr. Matt has juxtaposed the headlines:

LANDSLIDE: AHMADINEJAD...
CROWDS CLASH...
ISRAEL: VOTE SHOWS GROWING THREAT...
OBAMA 'EXCITED' BY ROBUST DEBATE...

UPDATE IX: A commenter “Darius” posts under Nate Silver’s analysis:

I’m sitting in my grandparents’ house in Tehran right now and I’m hearing mini-explosions, there’s helicopters flying around, it smells like smoke, and it took fifteen minutes for this website to load because they’ve slowed down the internet so much here. On top of that they’ve basically blocked parts of Iran from the international phone network so I can’t even call my mother. 80% of the Iranian people did not enthusiastically turn out in order to re-elect someone who has ruined this country both economically and culturally. The Iranian people know that this election was rigged. How could it have been possible for Mousavi to lose Tabriz when he is from Iranian Azerbaijan and Ahmadinejad has abysmal approval ratings amongst Turkic speaking Iranians? On top of that, I voted in this sham election. Do you know that all votes in Iran are cast on paper and that paper needs to be counted by HAND because you have to write in the code and name of the candidate you are voting for? Mousavi only claimed victory two hours into the vote because his campaign found out that the Interior Ministry was going to go forward and claim that it was extremely likely that Ahmadinejad was going to win, 2 hours into the balloting. You tell me, how do you even count 5.5 million paper ballots only two hours after the polls close? In Tehran it is also policy that the ballot boxes need to be transported to the Interior Ministry before they can even be opened, subtracting even more time from the 2 hours. Facebook does not work, Youtube does not work, basically all communications are down. You tell me sir, if they did not rig the elections where are all the people who supported Ahmadinejad? Why aren’t they celebrating? Why is the mood in Tehran, even southern Tehran so gloomy? Why is the government so scared? When looking at these basic facts you can come to the conclusion far more easily than using some stupid statistical analysis that gives legitimacy to a government which for 30 years has just further consolidated its power.

Good questions.

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