Who Won the “Election” in Iran?

I don’t trust the results of opinion polls conducted in countries with repressive and authoritarian regimes.

No matter how careful the independent pollsters are, people who live under a despotic government cannot be expected to give a stranger an honest dissenting opinion. If you have lived for decades with official deceit, intimidation, coercion, and spying, you are unlikely to trust a polling service, no matter how independent it purports to be. Why should you?

So the following article in The Washington Post should be taken with a grain of salt. Still, it’s food for thought:

The Iranian People Speak

The election results in Iran may reflect the will of the Iranian people. Many experts are claiming that the margin of victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the result of fraud or manipulation, but our nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin — greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday’s election.

While Western news reports from Tehran in the days leading up to the voting portrayed an Iranian public enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad’s principal opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, our scientific sampling from across all 30 of Iran’s provinces showed Ahmadinejad well ahead.

Independent and uncensored nationwide surveys of Iran are rare. Typically, preelection polls there are either conducted or monitored by the government and are notoriously untrustworthy. By contrast, the poll undertaken by our nonprofit organizations from May 11 to May 20 was the third in a series over the past two years.

What makes this particular poll interesting is that it showed Ahmadinejad in the lead by an even wider margin than he “won” the actual election with. If the balloting was as rigged as the opposition claims, why wasn’t the electoral margin higher than in this poll? Does the balloting process in Iran give voters a greater assurance of privacy than they would expect from a telephone poll? Or is there another reason for the discrepancy?

In any case, if you believe the poll, Mad Jad was very popular with Iranian voters:
– – – – – – – –

The breadth of Ahmadinejad’s support was apparent in our preelection survey. During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters. Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.


The only demographic groups in which our survey found Mousavi leading or competitive with Ahmadinejad were university students and graduates, and the highest-income Iranians. When our poll was taken, almost a third of Iranians were also still undecided. Yet the baseline distributions we found then mirror the results reported by the Iranian authorities, indicating the possibility that the vote is not the product of widespread fraud.

So the strongest opposition to Ahmadinejad came from the young people who have been so prominent on the streets of Tehran for the last few days. Given the lack of reliable independent media which could provide them with trustworthy information, it’s hardly surprising that they consider the election illegitimate, and their votes stolen.

But were the results really all that far from the true level of support for President Ahmadinejad?

The article is at pains to emphasize how the pollsters controlled for honesty in the answers people gave:

Some might argue that the professed support for Ahmadinejad we found simply reflected fearful respondents’ reluctance to provide honest answers to pollsters. Yet the integrity of our results is confirmed by the politically risky responses Iranians were willing to give to a host of questions. For instance, nearly four in five Iranians — including most Ahmadinejad supporters — said they wanted to change the political system to give them the right to elect Iran’s supreme leader, who is not currently subject to popular vote. Similarly, Iranians chose free elections and a free press as their most important priorities for their government, virtually tied with improving the national economy. These were hardly “politically correct” responses to voice publicly in a largely authoritarian society.

Indeed, and consistently among all three of our surveys over the past two years, more than 70 percent of Iranians also expressed support for providing full access to weapons inspectors and a guarantee that Iran will not develop or possess nuclear weapons, in return for outside aid and investment. And 77 percent of Iranians favored normal relations and trade with the United States, another result consistent with our previous findings.

The idea that Ahmadinejad is the Persian equivalent of “Nixon going to China” I find somewhat hard to swallow:

Iranians view their support for a more democratic system, with normal relations with the United States, as consonant with their support for Ahmadinejad. They do not want him to continue his hard-line policies. Rather, Iranians apparently see Ahmadinejad as their toughest negotiator, the person best positioned to bring home a favorable deal — rather like a Persian Nixon going to China.

Allegations of fraud and electoral manipulation will serve to further isolate Iran and are likely to increase its belligerence and intransigence against the outside world. Before other countries, including the United States, jump to the conclusion that the Iranian presidential elections were fraudulent, with the grave consequences such charges could bring, they should consider all independent information. The fact may simply be that the reelection of President Ahmadinejad is what the Iranian people wanted.

In any case, it’s a possibility that we ought to consider: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — even if his 66% win is hogwash — is popular in enough in Iran to win an unrigged election.

As an analogy, consider Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler was very popular in 1938, and a free, fair, and secret ballot would likely have returned a resounding victory for him. And bear in mind that at that point he had had only five years with full control of the state media and the apparatus of government repression.

The people of Iran have been living under the iron fist of the ayatollahs for thirty years.

It would not be at all surprising if they really do love Big Brother.

Hat tip: Frontinus.

21 thoughts on “Who Won the “Election” in Iran?

  1. I have followed the Sandmonkey site out of Cairo for many years.He claims this WaPo article to be rubbish.


    The owner of this blog mostly tweets anymore but he did put up a rather extensive post about Iran at the above site. I suggest you check it out.

  2. Well it looks like an editorial rather than an article…and I’m curious how “terrorfreetomorrow.org” did their polling with a name like that. Local company or what?

    Either way…most of the polls I’ve seen recently (various sources…) were very different – particularly given the urban/rural dichotomy – the vast majority of urban dwellers – major metropolitan, large towns, etc were in favor of Mousavi by over 3 to 1 (IIRC). Compared to a much smaller voting base in the rural areas who were still in favor of Mad Jad for his populist appeal.

    From everything I’ve read, I was surprised to see the final results…numerically at least – but like you said, fwiw, it’s kinda hard to say what the outcome really was – and when you get down to it, there’s no real difference between the two on any substantial issues.

  3. Considering the unsavoriness of both candidates, their endorsement by a good turn out of the electorate and the fact that the true seat of power remains with a shadowy group of unelected mullahs who enforce sharia law, perhaps its time to lay to rest the wishful thinking that grass roots Iranians diverge from their leadership and are friendly toward western democracies.

    The majority are apparently onside with the “wipe Israel off the face of the earth at any cost, even risking large Iranian losses because an Israel free world is priceless” program.

    How are they different from Germans during the Nazi regime?

    Unfortunately, the dissenting minority if it exists will suffer from the bad decisions and tyranny of the majority.

  4. Two Views of the Time Continumm–

    “We measure dates by events, not events by dates”

    Quote from an African man in the movie “Sahara”

    In previous posts, I have alluded to Western lack of knowledge of history, compared to muslims. I now discuss two methods of VIEWING TIME AND HISTORY– One Western, THE OTHER NON-WESTERN.

    First, the western view of time and history– It could be called the LINEAR CHRONOLOGICAL VIEW of time. It is believed TO BE derived from the Greeks. This Western view considers TIME AND HISTORY to be A Flowing ‘CHAIN’ OF ‘FILE BOXES’ OF YEARS. We westerners think of a year (decade, century, etc.) and dump all the events that happened in that year into the ‘file box’ of that year. We assume that events are basically determined and located by the year. History runs together in a (somewhat jumbled) catalog of events based on the years. The most important questions of this approach to time and history are WHEN? AND, WHAT YEAR?

    However, many cultures (middle eastern and far Eastern among them) HAVE A DIFFERENT VIEW OF HOW TO MEASURE TIME AND HISTORY. IT COULD BE CALLED the EVENT RELATION VIEW OF HISTORY. In this view, time is like a pond, and TIME AND HISTORY are measured BASED ON THE EVENTS THAT OCCUR AND THE SIMILARITY OF THE EVENTS (LIKE ROCKS FALLING INTO THE POND). iN THE CASE OF A ROCK SKIPPING ACROSS THE POND MULTIPLE TIMES, THE “TIMES”[events] ARE CONSIDERED RELATED EVEN IF THEY ARE FAR APART [different years, decades, centuries]. The FOCUS IS ON CYCLES AND PATTERNS OF EVENTS rather than dates. Thus, “soon” can mean “similar” in the Event Relation view of time and history. The most important questions for this approach are What? and How?

    The lineral Chronological [western] view of time[ Events by Dates] makes it easy to find the year. The event relation view of time [Dates by Events] makes it easier to see the “big picture” of history.

    Both views of time are helpful and important. But by not knowing of the Event Relation view of Time and History, Westerners have difficulty understanding how history “repeats itself” or “Rhymes”.

    Westerners may say “Mohammed lived 14 Centuries ago,” and muslims can say, “that was recent, and is so relevant to today”. Westerners say, “huh?” But what non-westerners mean by the statement is that the events are similar, and that history is repeating itself.

    True history is acquired experience from others. A Chinese maxim says “Trouble brings experience, and experience brings wisdom”. Both approaches are needed to understand history.

    The weakness of the linear chronological (western) view is that one thinks that a certain event “can’t happen in this (year, decade, century),” if it is unrelated to recent personal experience. This makes history out-of-date and irrelevant to Westerners.

    One must also realize that certain years mean different events to different cultures (1912, for example, is different to Chinese than to Westerners or Africans, etc.)

    When using the Event Relation view, one can compare current events and civilizations with previous events and civilizations. This allows other people’s experience to be acquired from history.

    When westerners say, “you don’t know what Century you are living in,” they mean “this can’t happen, because it doesn’t relate to our recent experience.” When muslims answer back, “No, YOU don’t know what century you are living in,” they mean “we see the pattern of events in your civilization and ours, see that the events are going to repeat themselves”.

    Dates DO NOT PREVENT certain events from happening, which is why one msut understand both approaches to time and history.

  5. The best outcome of the election actually happened……because lets face it Mousavi isnt a pro Western liberal in any sense of the word, though he may be more liberal than the Mullahs and Imanutjob.

    An opressed and silenced and thuggishly beaten truly liberal young peoples uprising against the obvious election fraud in an already sham democracy….well that drives people to commit to violent total revolution. Next they will need funding and support from outside (think CIA and other assorted Western non governmental groups) lawfare, pampleteering, supplies, training weapons, passports, sanctuary outside of Iran, clandestine travel rights etc etc etc.

    Viva la revolucion!

    Without taking down the Mullahs, you havent done a damn thing.

  6. Just as beating Baby Boomer kids with clubs as they rampaged through the street only strengthened their anti Western resolve and hardened their support for the Revolucion and the long march throught the institutions, these young people will eventually change the nature and government of Iran and insidiously work to subvert and undermine it to their own will.

    This is very very good. This is the best outcome of the Iranian election possible.

  7. The Sana’a manuscript will pull the plug on islam as the scam it is. Written in stone? Bah! Fat chance!

    But once the Sana’a findings are published in details, Islam will not be the same as it was for fourteen centuries. Islam is definitely going to take a strange position. Many Muslims will cast doubt on sacredness of the Quran, and the very ‘romantic’ concept of the Quran will gradually disappear, and then a very interesting development can be observed. The first question, which will appear in their mind is: which version is superior. But then, it is not possible to choose a Quran and discard the other by preference. Because the Muslim belief also confirms that he, who denies a single verse of the Quran, denies the entire revelation. This is a logical impossibility and since scientific research had already spoken out the truth, many Muslims will seek a way out of this nonsense, and will try to free themselves from the tyrannical oppression of living in a false religion.

    Puin is interested to write a book on this in the future, but already wrote several short essays on their findings in various science magazines, where he pointed out several aberrations between the ancient Quran and the present standard version (cited Warraq, 2002, p. 739–44). In refuting the sacredness of the Quran, Puin wrote:

    “My idea is that the Quran is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammad. Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. The Quran claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen’, or clear. But [contrary to popular belief] if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply does not make sense…the fact is that a fifth of the Quranic text is just incomprehensible. If the Quran is not comprehensible, if it can’t even be understood in Arabic, then it’s not translatable into any language. That is why Muslims are afraid. Since the Quran claims repeatedly to be clear but is not—there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on”.

    As if it is not enough, many manuscripts showed the sign of palimpsests, i.e., versions very clearly written over even earlier washed off versions. The underwriting of palimpsest is, of course, often difficult to read visually, but modern tools, such as ultraviolet photography, can highlight them. It suggests that the Sana’a manuscripts are not only variants to the present version of the Quran, but the Sana’a manuscripts themselves were variants of earlier version, re-written on the same paper. It means, Allah’s claim that original text is preserved in heaven on golden tablets (Q 56: 77–78; 85:21–22), which none can touch except angels is also a fairy-tale.


  8. EscapeVelocity: The best outcome of the election actually happened ...

    Given the possibility that Ahmadinejad may have won the popular vote, this may well be the case.

    Better that an unrepentant Iran maintains its perennially bellicose posture and invites an eventual smackdown for its ongoing sponsorship of global terrorism.

    A Mousavi administration might have been nothing more than a hudna during which the Ayatollahs would have continued their develoment of nuclear weapons anyway.

    Let Ahmadinejad keep it up with his genocidal spewing. All the more justification for when Israel finally drops the hammer.

    For an idea of just how precarious Iran’s situation actually is, I refer you to my post over in GoV’s “The Streets of Iran” thread.

  9. Zenster,

    “A Mousavi administration might have been nothing more than a hudna during which the Ayatollahs would have continued their develoment of nuclear weapons anyway.”

    The Moderate Mullah Mousavi was one of the original people behind the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and was responsible for the execution of the Shah’s supporters. MMM even served as the first Prime Minister for the new regime.

    If Khamenei does install MMM as the new President of Iran there will be lots of Western self-deception (self-hudna?) to the effect that he is a reformist (“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Khatami!”).

    Anyone who expects to be saved by moderates Muslims will welcome the Moderate Mullah Mousavi with open arms. He’s as big a dud as Sarkozy. Still, I hope the protests drag on for as long as possible and help to delegitimise the Islamic regime in its entirety.

  10. islam o’ phobe,

    you may be right and D.Pipes thinks as well that for our general deception this guy is worse.

    This is not a democratic situation and as the regime used various pretexts for 3 decades to supress this or that, the people in the streets have right now a pretext to start rolling.

    There are signs they use various popular tactics successful in toppling the shah in 1978. That might be a painful experience.

    Something like us using successfully jihadis and them the turning against us.

    I expect lot of paradoxes and irony in all possible scenarios. Shaming our stupid analysts and talking heads.

    They might as well storm the Evin prison or state TV. And “martyrs” will onlyfuel more wrath.

    The gag to present an unknown nutjob ahmedinejad was a successful trick 4 years ago (just like Putin), but Persians are smarter than Russians. Also Persia was never ruined that much as Russia. Lot of civic activities, papers, books etc. survived. and the memory of their pre-“revolution” good standing in the West. The present regime also benefitted from the reforms introduced by shah.

    One can play the hamas cart in the countryside, but most people live in the cities. Also they can use hisbollah/hamas etc. mercenaries against their own people.

    But if accidently Iran falls –
    mind that islam will be half finished and we can proceed in a more majestic and dignified way.

  11. Even over here MSM lets exiled iranians speak up. They claim Mousavi is a mass-murderer and that he once hanged their own relatives. At the same time MSM has set him up as a moderate compared to Mad Jad.

  12. The Sentinel:

    I do not think that you are acquainted with inner workings of totalitarian regimes. Americans and British are especially naive in this regard; they are not realizing that standing up for some good thing may end in swift and brutal death on half of the planet.

    Any demonstration that is less than 100,000 people will get brutally crushed and the leaders imprisoned, tortured and executed.

    Even the current demonstrations, which number in millions, can be drowned in blood. All of it hangs on the Army and other armed forces.

    So, unless you can get HUGE crowds in the streets at once, you had better be not demonstrating. Iranian cemeteries are full of daring political activists already.

    And the only way how to get millions in the streets at once is when all of them are personally wronged at the same time. Which is what happened now.

  13. All of which comes back to exactly what I said in the first: “Its a pity that none of them demonstrate this hard when Iran is stoning people to death or hanging children.” – and they don’t, presumably because they don’t feel that strongly enough about it or that stoning people to death and hanging children in their collective name falls into the category of “all of them” being “personally wronged at the same time.”

    (Incidentally the current protests in Iran – like the similar ones in ’99 and ’03 – are far from all one sided; there are plenty of Armadinejad supporters protesting too.)

    But as a former solider not only am I fully aware of the various brutal regimes and the tactics of terror that exist from first hand but I am also not averse at risking my own life to stop them.

    But out of interest, why do you think the west does not practice these barbarities?

  14. The Sentinel: If you really are of the type which protests against brutalities without regard for his life, and if you were born in Iran, you would be dead long already.

    People willing to risk their lives (and lives of their families, do not forget about the repression against families) for truth are always a small fraction of the general population. In Iran, in Japan, in USA, in Argentina.

    Totalitarian regimes are very good at killing or jailing these people, because that is what their security and existence is based on.

    People in Iran do not demonstrate against hangings for the same reason that people in North Korea do not demonstrate against hunger and concentration camps. They know that it is a sure one-way ticket to hell. They are afraid, OK? They learnt to live under the yoke of the regime, because the alternative is bloody death.

  15. To your other question: The only reason why the west does not practice the barbarities is separation of powers. Police action is subject to judicial review, journalists are eager to stick their nose into everything, bloggers alike.

    Whenever this structure fails, barbarities quickly follow.

  16. But they do demonstrate enmasse because they do not think the civic rights have been honoured? And so far a handful have been killed, but still they protest? As they did in 1999 and 2003.

    Clearly Iranians are not averse to mass protest when they feel strongly enough about an issue – it is just that the stoning to death of people and the hanging of children is not an issue they feel that strongly about. Clearly.

    The freedoms and civilisation we have in Europe did not come without a price; we experinced our own dark ages but we came through them and not one Eureopen country now has the death penalty at all, let for children or by way of burying people up to their necks and thorwing stones at them until they die.

    Pretty much, people get the governments they deserve; and public silence equates to consent.

  17. My personal belief is that Ahmadinejad did win. However, the protests in this case seem only to be in Tehran. This leads me to believe that given most universities are in Tehran as well as the highest concentration of what Iranians would consider liberals, most of the opposition to Ahmadinejad would be in Tehran.

    Given also that the US government is on record as trying to incite change in Iran through covert means, I wouldn’t be surprised if the US along with possibly other nations were egging on the protests so to speak in order to destabilize Iran and possibly weaken their hard line stances.

    In short I believe that Ahmadinejads support comes more from the towns and cities outside Tehran and that’s why there hasn’t been mention of similar protests in other Iranian towns and cities.

  18. The Western powers have done all they can to help crush Iran’s only significant opposition group, the PMOI, this is because the West is allied with the Mad Mullahs.


  19. The Sentinel, thanks to the rapid islamization we will soon see the practice of capital punishment once again all over Europe. It’s not a question of if but of when.

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