Iranian Election Fraud: Who Was the Real Target?

Original source:

Tuesday, 16 June 2009
by Michael Collins

Iranian Election Fraud 2009:  Who was the Real Target and Why?

There most certainly was election fraud in Iran in this election and every previous election under the current electoral system. The question is not, did fraud take place in this most recent election? Of course it did. You just need to study the Iranian Constitution and recent Iranian elections understand that, a step skipped by the major media and some nay-saying bloggers in the United States.

The real questions are who or what was the target of the fraud and why? The 2009 presidential election produced a 75% turnout, an alleged landslide victory for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and widespread protests by supporters of the losing candidates. It also produced a pervasive and violent crack down by Iranian authorities.  

The reelection of Ahmadinejad is highly significant to Iranians and the rest of the world. Iran is a major oil supplier and a political actor of major proportions in the South Asia and the Middle East. Iran may join the list of nations with nuclear weapons soon, it appears.

(Left:  Is this man the target of Iranian election fraud?
Hashemi Rafsanjani, former two-term president
and Iranian power broker.

The most pressing current problem with Iran is posed by the nation's president who happens to be certifiably insane. He is a holocaust denier; not just once but every time he's asked. Ahmadinejad even hosted a world conference for other deniers. The existence of the holocaust is not a required issue for discussion by Iranian politicians. Ahmadinejad actually goes out of his way to showcase his break with reality. He also continues the repellent advocacy of the death penalty for homosexuality and for capital crimes by children.

Yet he was approved once again by Iran's Guardian Council as a candidate for the nation's highest office.The council consists of six Islamic jurists appointed by the Supreme Leader of Iran and six from the Majlis, Iran's popularly elected parliament. They screen presidential candidates through background checks and a detailed written examination. Very few pass the test. Since 2004, the council has routinely rejected reform candidates. That's the fraud. It couldn't be more obvious.

Copyright MMV Siavush Randjbar-Daemi

"Statistically and mathematically, it is impossible to maintain such perfect linear relations between the votes of any two candidates in any election -- and at all stages of vote counting.   This is particularly true about Iran, a large country with a variety of ethnic groups   who usually vote for a candidate who is ethnically one of their own." 
--The Teheran Bureau, Muhammad Sahimi, June 13, 2009 (or pdf of site).
The outcome of every election is determined by 12 men through the selection process that they devise. The choice of Iranian voters is determined before they ever get to the polling place. Candidates represent a very narrow spectrum defined by the 12. This process is supposed to accomodate the various major factions in the country to preserve civil order but the balancing act is entirely under the control of the guardian council.

The 2004 selection process by the guardian's is referred to as the silent coup by many Iranians. The selection of candidates for parliament was so biased against Iran's reform parties, many ended up boycotting the election. The boycott and lower turnout resulted in Ahmadinejad's election as president and a parliament stacked with his supporters. (Note on the use of "reformer" in Iranian politics).

The result of the 2009 election was too much to bear for supporters of the approved reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former president of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. They've taken to the streets.

   Demonstrators Prevail Over Riot Police

Demonstrators clash with police The losing candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, is reported missing. He supposedly has an account on Twitter. An Iranian web site published a letter it reported was meant for his followers. That web site is down at this moment.

In the letter, Mousavi said:

"The reported results of the 10th Iranians residential Election are appalling. The people who witnessed the mixture of votes in long lineups know who they have voted for and observe the wizardry of I.R.I.B (State run TV and Radio) and election officials.

"Now more than ever before they want to know how and by which officials this game plan has been designed. I object fully to the current procedures and obvious and abundant deviations from law on the day of election and alert people to not surrender to this dangerous plot.
Dishonesty and corruption of officials as we have seen will only result in weakening the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran and empowers lies and dictatorships.

"I am obliged, due to my religious and national duties, to expose this dangerous plot and to explain its devastating effects on the future of Iran. I am concerned that the continuation of the current situation will transform all key members of this regime into fabulists in confrontation with the nation and seriously jeopardize them in this world and the next" (June 14, 2009).
(Original web site not currently available).

There were reports of widespread voter intimidation at the polls by the police and ballot destruction. There were also reports that the bureaucracy that runs elections had been purged of those not loyal to the Ahmadinejad regime.
 BBC, June 13, 2009       Click photo to enlarge

Iran's elections are run by the same group that selects candidates, the Guardian Council. This may explain the suspicious nature of election reporting by government authorities.

An experienced reporter on Iranian politics, Laura Secor, was clear in her assessment: "There can be no question that the June 12, 2009 Iranian presidential election was stolen. Dissident employees of the Interior Ministry, which is under the control of President Ahmadinejad and is responsible for the mechanics of the polling and counting of votes, have reportedly issued an open letter saying as much" (New Yorker, June 13, 2009).

Her doubts are widely held in Iran, according to a just published story by Reuters: INSTANT VIEW: Iran's election result staggers analysts.
Maziar Bahari of Newsweek erroneously reported that, "Less than a month before balloting starts, all the polls give a healthy edge to the hardline incumbent." That statement is simply wrong. Pre-election polls varied greatly. The last national poll of 7,900 citizens showed a 57% to 24% Mousavi lead.

Checking the validity of any Iranian pre election poll is difficult due to limited to no access to data and methodology. The momentum of the campaign measured by crowd size showed a wave of enthusiasm for Mousavi and his "Green" reform movement. There were troubling patterns in the announced vote totals that indicated a rigged contest. A statistical analysis from the Tehran Bureau (or pdf of site if it's down) showed nearly the same difference in votes from the first through sixth phase of reporting by government authorities. The poster, Muhammad Sahimi, concluded: "Statistically and mathematically, it is impossible to maintain such perfect linear relations between the votes of any two candidates in any election -- and at all stages of vote counting. This is particularly true about Iran, a large country with a variety of ethnic groups who usually vote for a candidate who is ethnically one of their own."  --The Teheran Bureau, Muhammad Sahimi, June 13, 2009 (or pdf of site).

This type of precision ignored factors like variable vote totals by region, ethnic group, and locality, e.g., city, town, and so forth. Juan Cole outlined several of the glaring inconsistencies in the election results that support this analysis.

Nate Silver at took a look at this data, called it "dubious," and concluded that it did not prove election fraud. He compared the actual reports of Iran election results to a special model he built for the 2008 United States presidential election. His model presumed that states reported results (a) in six phases (which they do not), as the Iranian results were reported, and (b) by alphabetical groupings, e.g., Alabama through Illinois, etc. (which is not the case in real world U.S. election reporting).

Jumping through these self-created hoops, Silver was able to fit the 2006 U.S. presidential election into the statistical pattern of the Iranian election. In addition to a flawed comparison to U.S. election reporting, Silver ignored the electoral success of reform movement candidate Mohammad Khatami in 1997 (70% share/80% turnout) and 2001 (78% share/70% turnout). Reform movement ally Rafsanjani won the two presidential elections before that in 1989 and 1993. Ahmadinejad's 2005 victory was a fluke due to a boycott by reformers after their candidates were by the guardian's council. Turnout was only 48%. Clearly, reformers are the dominant vote-getters in open Iranian elections.
With a history of reform candidate dominance in high turnout elections, we're supposed to believe that the 80% turnout in 2009 produced a lopsided victory for the radical Islamic candidate with failed economic policies.

Then there are the striking similarities between the Iranian election and the 2006 Mexican presidential election. There was massive evidence of fraud from the destruction of ballots to phased election reports that were so perfect statistically that it appeared to be the product of a computer-generated program.

Ironically, Silver concluded that, "To properly analyze Iran's election results is probably something best left to Middle East experts, rather than experts on U.S. electoral politics." Maybe he should check the Tehran Bureau's web site to see people with American-sounding names telling Iranians who've just risked their lives to protest election fraud that it was all a waste of their time.

Posted at the Tehran Bureau, Faulty Election Data (or pdf of site),

Mike Thomas says:
June 13, 2009 at 16:55

"As much as I’m sure the Iranian elections are bullshit rigged. The mathematical analysis in this post is flawed. For a very neat explanation of why this is the case, visit where Nate Silver links to this post and explains the problem."

The "problem" is the impertinence of the poster's "neat explanation" and his reference to Silver's flawed and historically vacant critique of a fraud analysis that is just one part of a much larger picture of election fraud in Iran. It is a life and death struggle faced by the Iranian people, not an online fantasy game.

                             "People of Iran"

Why was this particular election fixed in the way that it was?

What were the high stakes that required a blatant cramdown of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's choice, the deranged Ahmadinejad?

The Iranian Revolution was not monolithic. It consisted of leftist nationalists, represented by students and others, primarily in urban areas, a right wing based on Islamic law, and other distinct factions.

Iran's first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, is said to have balanced these constituencies to prevent the domination of one or the other opposed factions. The complex counterbalancing powers assigned to various groups. The Iranian Constitution reflects this goal.

Iran's reformers favor a more open society, openings to the West, and a more capitalist economy. Ahmadinejad's faction has a radical interpretation of Islamic law that's highly restrictive.

"Media, we are not opposition, we are people of Iran" reads sign at left.
Iranians in Great Britain demonstrate at Iran's Embassy.   Credit

This restrictiveness includes criminal acts like executing those convicted of homosexual behavior. Ahmadinejad is also pushing a hard for a redistribution of wealth.

Rafsanjani is opposed to this for several reasons. According to Forbes he's one of thee wealthiest men in the world. He wants more openings to the West. In this campaign, he has also been the target of highly personal attacks by Ahmadinejad who accused him of fraud in a presidential debate.

Rafsanjani fired back with an open public letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reminding him that he, not Ahmadinejad, was a true follower of the balance of power initiated by Khomeini. The letter was also a preemptive notice to the current government to avoid stealing the election, according to Hossein Bastini, an Iranian foreign policy analyst.

Of note, Rafsanjani is head of both the Expediency Discernment Council and the Assembly of Experts. While both are powerful positions under Iran's Constitution, the Assembly of Experts has fundamental power. It selects Iran's maximum leader, the supreme ruler, and it has the power to remove that leader if it determines the leader has strayed from Islamic principles.

Structuring the 2005 elections to take legislative power from Iran's reform faction was the first step in moving on the reformers and their most powerful leader, Hashemi Rafsanjani and the entire reform movement. Stealing the 2009 Presidential election was the second of four steps to secure total control of Iran. The allegiance of the armed forces and the Supreme leader are the final two acts, it would appear, in Ahmadinejad's drama.

The delusional president (s)elect seems to have forgotten the expressed will of the Iranian people. Reformers won the parliamentary and presidential elections for the last two cycles until the Guardian Council shut down reform candidates for parliament and stole the presidential election a few days ago.

Election fraud creates false majorities and a much larger group of dissatisfied citizens. Ultimately this unresolved conflict may be resolved by the long-term political power broker, Hashemi Rafsanjani. Hardly a figure of real reform, Rafsanjani has the most to lose in the short term. From his term as president, he knows the options of that office to confine dissidents, assassinate opponents abroad, and worse. He'll not likely volunteer for the role of victim without a fight. But he controls the council that has power over the selection and tenure of the supreme leader. He had already asked Khamenei to reject the results of the presidential election.

Rafsanjani's and candidate Mousavi's ability to maneuver and the presence and strength of ongoing protests are the real indicators of the winner of this round of the Iranian power struggle.

The Associated Press said that, "The outcome will not sharply alter Iran's main policies or sway major decisions, such as possible talks with Washington or nuclear policies. Those crucial issues rest with the ruling clerics headed by the unelected Khamenei." June 12, 2009

AP ignores the balancing act of Iranian politics and the fact that the supreme leader is appointed and can be removed as well. It seems that AP sees no difference in dealing with a holocaust denier who steals elections, denies the will of citizens, and routinely executes homosexuals, versus Mousavi, the leader of the "Green" revolution, who promised a more open society and friendly relationships with Iran's neighbors. Positive contact with the United States is also in the plans.


A banner with the word "freedom" in Farsi
May the Iranian people have the right to express their will through elections open to all factions with voting, vote counting, and reporting that is transparent, verifiable, and accurate.

Of all the elements in Iranian politics, the two that offer the most hope are citizens as indicated by earlier voting patterns, candidate Mousavi for his resistance to fraud, and those true reformers excluded from the election system by the so-called guardians of Iran's election process.

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