Mass demonstrations in particular in Tehran these days, even with casualties, give the strong impression that the majority of the Iranian people will not accept the results of last week’s presidential election when the incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yielded allegedly a landslide victory over his main rival Mir Hossein Mousavi. Western media spread claims of fraud and rigged results. One especially ridiculous example of how to manipulate the lay public opinion was the use of regression analysis of cumulative counting results after polling stations had been closed which has been launched by tehranbureau, an exile Iranian organization located in the US. The mere nonsense of such an analysis was quickly debunked by mathematician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. But the risks of manipulating the public by fraudulent reporting are still present.
Detailed results of the election have been released in the meantime by Iran’s Interior Ministry and can be found here. Although fraud cannot be proved or disproved at the moment and most probably never, claims of fraud are still around and growing. But do the demonstrators on Tehran’s street who are in favor of the largely unknown, rather colorless Mousavi whose political program would not, in the West, really been regarded as that of a reformer, represent the majority of the Iranian people? On election day, FiveThirtyEight had published some opinion polling results showing that Ahmadinejad always led since April. Unfortunately, even these polls were largely confined to Tehran and, if either conducted or monitored by the government, must be considered untrustworthy.
A nationwide public opinion poll had been conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow. Its conclusions, published on Monday this week by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty in the Washington Post, indicate that the 2 to 1 margin in favor of Ahmadinejad was already visible in mid-May. It was based on telephone interviews conducted by a neighboring country. In that survey, the breadth of support for Ahmadinejad was apparent. Even Azeris, the second largest ethnical group in Iran favored Ahmadinejad by a 2 to 1 margin, although Mousavi had stressed his identity as an Azeri. Some analysts have taken the mere fact that Mousavi lost the election even in the two Azerbaijan provinces as strong evidence that the election results had been rigged.
Ballen and Doherty write: “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.”
Today’s situation in Tehran and other large cities might in fact escalate. If it is being settled and President Ahmadinejad is resuming his second term, crackdown and terror will definitely increase and another round of oppression of the opposition in Iran commence. Insofar the outcome of this election is a true tragedy for the country, but it had to be expected. It might even reflect the will of the silent majority of have-nots in the vast country. Ahmadinejad’s competitors in the campaign were not really alternatives of the ideological hardliner who still (but how long?) enjoys sympathy and full support by the real leader of the country, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.