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An Assessment of Iran's 10th Presidential Election Results

By Amir Naghshineh-Pour


Iran's 10th presidential election was held on Friday June 12th. Supporters of the four candidates took to the streets of the cities before the election to peacefully and cheerfully express their feelings and support for their contenders. There had hardly been any serious clashes reported until the final shocking results were announced. Unpredictably, Ahmadinejad's landslide victory was proclaimed without the usual formal procedure within a short period after the polls were closed. A wide margin of 11 million votes between the front runner and the 2nd rival was not by any ways expected. Many people felt cheated and disrespected because of the inconsistent election results.


Although elections in Iran are still far from free, turnouts have usually been high compared to free elections in other countries. There is a broad belief among many Iranians that elections are their absolute right and not a concession given by the system (this belief goes back to the Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1906 when the people established an elected parliament and a constitution that curbed the power of the Shah).


Members of the First Majlis (October 7, 1906 to June 23, 1908


At present, free elections in Iran are stifled by the council of guardians, a heavily biased conservative watchdog, which vets election hopefuls and chooses the final nominees according to its will, based on a fresh interpretation of the constitution after Ayatollah Khomeini's death (perhaps only the first couple of elections were held freely after the 1979 revolution). This unlimited supervisory power, which is called "nezarat-e estesvabi" in Persian, comes from a self-interpreted constitutional warrant the council bestowed upon itself. According to the constitution the guardian council has only the power to supervise the elections to ensure that they are held healthy and unrigged. However, the council reinterpreted its original power in order to have the full control of the election process including vetting the hopefuls (the council of guardians is the only body that can interpret the constitution). Many even in the establishment oppose this interpretation.


This particular presidential election has a rather crucial role in shaping the future of Iran. The final four candidates demonstrated a wide spectrum of perspectives in different state and foreign affairs within the Islamic Republic system. Many people who refused to vote in previous elections chose to go to the polls to cast their ballots for change. A large number of citizens in different classes of society sensed the re-election of Mahmood Ahmadinejad would particularly lead Iran towards militarization of the country because of many appointments of revolutionary guard members to various key posts as well as a considerable increase of their involvement in civil economic activity for the past four years. Other given reasons are the worldwide isolation of the country, opposition towards Palestinian oriented foreign policy that has endangered Iran's strategic interest, disagreement with failed economic policies in spite of skyrocketing oil revenues, opposition towards imposed social and political restrictions that have landed many students as well as human rights and political activists in jail, opposition towards the behavior of university authorities towards students (many students were given stars and prevented from continuing their education), disagreement with shutting down and muzzling news organizations, etc.


A simple analysis shows that how the declared results are not credible and why many people felt betrayed. There is no doubt that Mr. Ahmadinejad is still popular among certain classes of society and has many supporters among them. It is important to mention that the majority of his supporters should not be assumed as part of the plain cloth pressure group thugs who also support him. In the 2005 presidential election based on the statistics issued by the interior ministry 27 million people participated in the 2nd round of the presidential election between Mr. Rafsanjani and Mr. Ahmadinejad. Derived from the same statistics 10 million people voted for Rafsanjani and 17 million voted for Ahmadinejad. In the recent presidential election according to the declaration of the interior ministry roughly 38 million people cast their ballots. Therefore, approximately 11 million people who had not voted in the previous presidential election took part in the recent one. The majority of the 11 million may rightfully be assumed as the ones who were in favor of Mr. Mousavi because of the change they expected from him. Having said that, it is realistic to assume that at least 9 million of the 11 million new votes went to Mr. Mousavi and the rest went to Mr. Ahmadinejad. It is also reasonable to assume that the 10 million people who voted for Rafsanjani in the previous election voted for Mousavi in this election (the number of votes for Karroubi and Rezaie were small so they are not being accounted for). Therefore, the number of votes for Mousavi should have added up to at least 19 million. Supposing that Ahmadinejad secured the votes of the 17 million people who voted for him in the previous election, which is a very indulgent assumption, and adding that to the 2 million of the 11 million new votes would have given him 19 million votes at best.


The current outcome that indicates 24 million votes for Ahmadinejad and 13 million votes for Mousavi are clear evidence of irregularities and vote rigging. Furthermore, the whole non-standard way of announcing the results by the interior ministry brings a lot of skepticism. It seems that the engineers of the election results might have seriously miscalculated the outcome of the presidential election development, which has resulted in sobering street protests. There is no doubt that this event has undermined the trust of the people and their one hundred years of grappling and struggling for a democratic system.


About the Author: Amir Naghshineh-Pour (MBA) is a financial and business analyst. He works for an investment bank.


Related Articles:

Note on the presidential election in Iran, June 2009
By Professor Mebane, Walter R., Jr., Department of Political Science and Department of Statistics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Benford's Law anomalies in the 2009 Iranian presidential election
By Boudewijn F. Roukema

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