Monday, June 22, 2009

Further confirmation that the Iranian election results look phony (from Chatham House)

The more closely the official results of Iran's presidential election are considered, the less believable they look. (For some examples, see here & here.)

The credibility of those results now been further undermined by a study issued jointly by Chatham House, the prominent British think tank, and the University of St. Andrews: "Preliminary Analysis of the Voting Figures in Iran’s 2009 Presidential Election". (A compact summary by two of the authors is here.)

Based on a detailed province-by-province analysis of the voting statistics from Iran's Interior Ministry for both the 2005 and 2009 presidential elections, the authors conclude that there are a lot of reasons to regard the 2009 figures with, let us say, great skepticism. Here are some of those reasons (for the rest, see the full study):

· In two conservative provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, a turnout of more than 100% was recorded.

· If Ahmadinejad's victory was primarily caused by the increase in voter turn-out [JW: i.e., if a previously silent hard-line majority suddenly turned out to vote, which is an implausible idea on the face of it], one would expect the data to show that the provinces where there was the greatest 'swing' in support to Ahmadinejad would also be the provinces with the greatest increase in voter turnout. That is not the case.

· In a third of all provinces, the official results would require that Ahmadinejad took not only all former conservative voters, 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 groups.

· 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.

Juan Cole comments:
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. [....]

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). [....]

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.
--Jeff Weintraub

Update: The Guardian Council "announced on Monday that the number of votes recorded in 50 cities exceeded the number of eligible voters there by [a total of] three million." No doubt there's some perfectly comprehensible explanation for this discrepancy, but to a suspicious mind it looks a little fishy. And three million questionable votes out of about 40 million reported overall might ordinarily seem like a significant amount. But fortunately the powers-that-be had taken the precaution of awarding Ahmadinejad a lead of about 11 millions votes, so a mere three million would not be enough to change the outcome.
“I don’t think they actually counted the votes, though that’s hard to prove,” said Ali Ansari, a professor at the Institute of Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and one of the authors of a study of the election results issued by Chatham House, a London-based research group.
Why bother?

Update #2: For more on this announcement and its implications, and on the statistical implausibilities of the official vote totals more generally, see this piece by Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, who is an acknowledged expert at crunching election statistics: "Worst. Damage Control. Ever."
This leaves only two possibilities: that there was widespread ballot-stuffing or that the results in some or all areas don't reflect any physical count of the ballots but were fabricated whole hog on a spreadsheet.