Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Questions Surrounding Iran's Election

All hell is breaking loose in Iran after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election. Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has made accusations of a stolen election and his supporters have been protesting in the streets over the last few days. Supporters of Mousavi and the reform movement have been arrested and cell phone communication within Iran has been limited. The Saudi-funded media outlet al-Arabiya has been shut down for "unknown reasons" and there have even been reports of up to 100 protesters dead within the country. Here is some video of the protests:

With so much conflicting information coming out of Iran, it is difficult to put an accurate finger on the whether the election was indeed stolen. Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute, has compiled some reasons that he points to in order to support his own questioning of the election results. Here is part of his post:

I am aware of the difficulties of catching history on the run. Some explanation may emerge for Ahmadinejad's upset that does not involve fraud. For instance, it is possible that he has gotten the credit for spreading around a lot of oil money in the form of favors to his constituencies, but somehow managed to escape the blame for the resultant high inflation.

But just as a first reaction, this post-election situation looks to me like a crime scene. And here is how I would reconstruct the crime.

As the real numbers started coming into the Interior Ministry late on Friday, it became clear that Mousavi was winning. Mousavi's spokesman abroad, filmmaker Mohsen Makhbalbaf, alleges that the ministry even contacted Mousavi's camp and said it would begin preparing the population for this victory.

The ministry must have informed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has had a feud with Mousavi for over 30 years, who found this outcome unsupportable. And, apparently, he and other top leaders had been so confident of an Ahmadinejad win that they had made no contingency plans for what to do if he looked as though he would lose.

They therefore sent blanket instructions to the Electoral Commission to falsify the vote counts.

This clumsy cover-up then produced the incredible result of an Ahmadinejad landlside in Tabriz and Isfahan and Tehran.

and from Cole's piece that appeared yesterday at

Obama administration officials were privately casting doubt on the announced vote tallies. They pointed out that it was unlikely that Ahmadinejad had defeated his chief opponent, Mir-Hossein Moussavi, by a margin of 57 percent, in Moussavi's own home city of Tabriz. Nor is it plausible, as claimed, that Ahmadinejad won a majority of votes in the capital, Tehran, from which he hails. The final tally also gave only 320,000 votes to the other reformist candidate, Mehdi Karoubi, who had helped force Ahmadinejad into a runoff election when he ran in 2005. It seems odd that he get less than 1 percent of the votes in this round. Karoubi, an ethnic Lur from Iran's west, was even alleged to have done poorly in those provinces.

The final vote counts alleged for cities and provinces, even more so than the landslide claimed by the incumbent nationally, strongly suggest a last-minute and clumsy fraud. A carefully planned theft of the election would at least have conceded Tabriz to Moussavi and the rural western Iranian villages to Karoubi.

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