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New Analysis Points to Fraud in Iran

The election forensics expert who has been poring over the announced results of last week's controversial Iranian elections writes this morning that he is "no longer on the fence" about electoral irregularities there.

In an early morning update to his prelimary report on the election, Walter R. Mebane, Jr. notes: "I think the results give moderately strong support for a diagnosis that the 2009 [Iranian] election was affected by significant fraud."

Mebane, a professor at the University of Michigan, uses newly obtained town-level results from the election four years ago to predict this year's votes, and finds a "large number of outliers," instances where numbers do not make sense given the other outcomes.

In most of these cases, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did better than "natural political processes" would indicate, according to the updated paper. Among other assumptions, this model equates (politically, if not mathematically) 2005 votes for Ahmadinejad rival Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to votes for 2009 challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi (or at least not Ahmadinejad).

This analysis adds a new diminension to the debate over the results, but is still well short of "hard evidence" of fraud, particularly given our limited understanding of voting behavior in Iran.

And all of this may miss a key point brought up by a reader in today's Post: in a letter-to-the-editor, John Cronin of Takoma Park writes that our search for "proof" through numbers may be misguided. "[W]hen an unelected ayatollah -- the "supreme leader," no less -- controls much of the media, the military and the courts, the whole state is effectively rigged," Cronin writes, "[i]t's hard to imagine any election being truly fair under such conditions, regardless of the extent to which the ballot boxes are stuffed."

By Jon Cohen  |  June 18, 2009; 9:36 AM ET
Categories:  Polls  
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Next: Obama Approval: The Demographic Data


And all of this may miss a key point brought up by a reader in today's Post: in a letter-to-the-editor, John Cronin of Takoma Park writes that our search for "proof" through numbers may be misguided. "[W]hen an unelected ayatollah -- the "supreme leader," no less -- controls much of the media, the military and the courts, the whole state is effectively rigged,"
True, but what of our Electoral College ???

Though we may not well understand voting behavior in Iran, we clearly understand the nature & extent of the ongoing demonstrations -- the largest of the 21st century, and most probably since the fall of the Shah of Iran many years ago.

Posted by: | June 18, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps even more significant, NO ONE is blaming the CIA for these massive demonstrations.

REGARDLESS of the ultimate outcome, THE IRANIAN PEOPLE are clearly sending the government of Iran a very clear message that 'business as usual' with perhaps both Israel and the United States will no longer be acceptable.

THE PEOPLE OF IRAN want to claim their place in the 'new world order,' that President Obama and numerous other countries are trying to implement.

OTHERWISE, Iran may have to deal with a Dick [Hussain] Cheney in the future.

Posted by: | June 18, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Imagine fraud in an Iranian election! Did they learn this from us?

We cannot even get a senatorial contest in Minnesota finished. It is now June.

The Florida vote in 2000 is a mark on our election system.

Bottom line: Let the Iranians figure out their own election problems. President Obama is doing the right thing by staying out of the mess. Based on what we know, the other candidates do not offer much difference. Or are we willing to support another "Castro" style opposition leader like we did when we supported Castro in the 1950s. Look what we got then!

Posted by: EarlC | June 18, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

EarlC is right. This is an Iranian problem and once it is all settled one way or the other America will have to deal with what is there, whether we feel it is legitimate or not.

I'm glad to see people standing up for democracy, but the problem is bigger than lost votes or ballots stuffed. The Iranian revolution put in place multiple institutions to maintain the theocracy. They knew it could not stand on its own and so they have the Guardian Council, the Revolutionary Guard and their many militias. The protestors don't have a any more chance I'm sorry to say than those in Tienamen Square had in 1989, but it is a beginning. And Obama is doing the right thing, staying quiet so the mullahs cannot blame America for their problems, as they always do. Oh how its nice to have a real president doing a proper job once again.

Posted by: bevjims1 | June 18, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm no happier than most Americans about the result of the 2000 election, but to compare our electoral process to Iran's is just ludicrous. Fact is, the electoral college has only failed to reflect the popular vote once since the late 19th century. Of course, the 2000 debacle gave us an incompetent president...which is embarrassing. But it really came down to a problem all democracies face: close elections are ugly. Always will be, no matter the system.

I just think it's important to have some moral clarity on this. There weren't paramilitary motorcycle gangs terrorizing the streets of Miami in 2000; there was no media jamming; and the Federal Election Commission certainly wasn't controlled by some Grand theocratic puppet master. The system may have failed us, but it wasn't rigged. That's the difference.

Posted by: jdnj | June 18, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The GOP prescription for Iran:

1. GOP goads Obama into siding with Mousavi supporters.

2. Iranian government points to US support behind opposition.

3. Iranian people decide Mousavi and the opposition are traitors and American stooges.

4. Opposition is discredited and effectively destroyed.

5. GOP gets to blame Obama for "losing Iran".

Posted by: kevrobb | June 18, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

The election authorities told Mousavi that he had won election but to wait until Sunday to declare it which is why he is so adamant about continuing the protests.

Posted by: mascmen7 | June 18, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Is fraud any surprise????????

Posted by: Jimbo77 | June 18, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Fraud, not really. Fraud would be when, for example, I voted for candidate X and someone changed my vote to one for Candidate Y. Or when,for example, all the votes from districts favoring one candidate were counted but ones from other districts favoring the opposition weren't. You know, just like the Daley Machine ran Chicago elections for years and the way Democrats ran Texas in the times of LBJ.

This was not fraud of an election because there was no election. There was an annointmemt by the mullahs of the candidate they want to serve as their mouthpiece. The physical act of people casting their vote was window dressing for the mullahs to claim Iran is a democracy.

Iran is a dictatorhip ruled by religious fanatics who control the instruments of power such as the military and media. All the marching in the streets by the moderates is not going to produce any different result. Sad, but true and we should not get our hopes up that the mullahs are going to willingly release their grip on power. They will keep killing demonstrators until they return the state to its pre-election/annointment time.

Posted by: bobfbell | June 18, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

When Bush was pushing democracy on the middle east, thank god he left out the part about not winning by such big margins. Newbies!

Posted by: Woodstocknative | June 18, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

It was ever thus.
It is pointless to even ponder the idea of a fair election in a country run by clerics. How can any election even approach validity when the Mullahs say who can run and who can not? The number of disallowed candidates was striking. The situation with these folks is not much different from when the Catholic Church ran Europe. Were any heretics allowed to be among the nobility? Once again religion rears its ugly head.

Posted by: chopin224 | June 18, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

It is wise thatIran shall resolve election votes disputes by itself peacefully.

Israel with unbreakable bond with the US likes to see Iran to go down.

Posted by: fan2lee1 | June 18, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

We are absolutely with the Iranian people.

Don’t let the ghost of JOSEPH STALIN come alive there.

Earlier quote of JOSEPH STALIN. Quote (Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.) End of quote.

Continuing, when Mahmoud Almadinejad came into power four years ago, unemployment in Iran was 10.5 percent. Now it is up to 17 percent and climbing. And according to Iran’s own Central Bank, inflation is now up to 23.6 percent, twice as high as it was four years ago.

The great and historic country of IRAN needs a new direction.

Posted by: CommonSense12 | June 18, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: mtavro | June 18, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse


Coward liar Barack HUSSEIN Obama "Apologist in chief", how can he keep his nonsense promise during his campaign, that is, negotiating with U.S. enemies such as North Korea and Iran, which have never respected any treaty with U.S., especially when North Korea just launched many missile and nuclear tests and planned to fire missile toward Hawaii, not mentioning illegally arrested and sentenced two American journalists Laura Ling and Eunu Lee to twelve years of labor, while Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an extremist who called for Israel to be wiped off the map and denied the holocaust, was just re-elected by fraud. Is Obama going to bow to Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejas as he did to King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia to gain his peace deals? Is he willing to convert to Islam, his Kenyan father and Indonesian step father's religion, to meet Osama Bin Laden's requirement that in order to end the Iraq war, U.S. troop withdrawal is not enough, Americans must reject their democratic system and embrace Islam? Just recently, Obama said that he would support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections, giving a green light to Teheran's ambituous uranium enrichment program, which can be used for its discreet nuclear bomb development program as well, without suffering sanctions and economic isolation as it currently endures. Does Obama want Iran to become another North Korea using its nuclear power to terrorize the U.S and its allies? Worst still, Obama refused to show support for pro-democracy protesters and denounce the brutal regime for the deaths of seven demontrators, fearing to be seen as interfering in Iran's internal affairs so that he could not pursue a nuclear deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader. In fact, Obama sided with the regime, citing that there was not a bit of difference between the two candidates, a moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi and hardcore extremist Ahmadinejad. As a big mouth for change at home, he does not want to see any change in Iran. Is he going to turn a blind eye to another Tianamen Square massacre committed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? As for a Palestinian state demanded by Obama, it will undoubtedly soon become a TERRORIST state under control of terrorist militant group Hamas, which is the most powerful and popular force with its goal to destroy Israel and which won a majority seats in the current Palestinian National Authority in 2006 election and ousted Fatah militant group of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas of Gaza in 2007. Last but not least, Obama ordered to stop waterboarding tactic used by CIA, even it worked well on terrorist suspects like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-describer planner of 9-11 attacks who provided CIA with valuable information, preventing more 9-11 attacks and saving thousands of American lives.

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | June 18, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

It's very funny to see so many people stating election in Iran is not democratic in principle, independent of the votes casted. In fact, in Iran each person casts one vote, different from the US, whose system is not considered democratic in principle by many, for allowing a president to be ellected even if the majority of people vote for his opponent.
Also "the people" is a very smoky entity... It seems people who are demonstrating are from middle and upper class, liberal professionals, artists and university students. Most of the analysis have been showing for a while that Ahmadinejad's support is strong among the lower classes (which are in fact the majority of the people, and, in a democracy, should have their desires respected). Despite the crisis, poor people perceive Ahmadinejad's policies as redistributive, and their perception seem to be acurate. People who benefitted from the subsidiary policies he extinguished are most likely to be from the middle and upper classes.
Finally, the "expert opinion" is based solely in the last ellection. And if the last ellection could tell what the next ellection would be, Obama would not be the president of the US. This seems to be a "color revolution", enacted by middle and upper classes seeking to keep economic privileges Iranian Government was not able to maintain because of the sharp fall of oil prices.

Posted by: fabiobaq | June 18, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

From all the facts available, there is little doubt that fraud exists. But that does not mean Ahmadinejad necessarily lost as his support is still considerable among some Iranians. I think Khamenei and folks somehow panicked at the prospect of Moussavi being elected and tried to pre-emptively pull the lever first which is probably the biggest blunder they have ever made. This is a fight as much egged on by the people's progressive voices as it is about factional splits inside the govt. It seems the 2 factions can't obliterate each other, so the only thing left now is what compromises they will reach to exist together.

Posted by: chlai88 | June 18, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

If the election in Iran was fair and the purported result represents the will of the people, a re-run, which is allowed under the Iranian Constitution, should be no problem for the Mullahs.

They didn't play fair in the run up to the election and they are not playing fair now.

Posted by: Respectthe9thAmendment | June 18, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

We would not cheat

Is Ayatollah Khamenei referring to himself or the Royal Union Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr Ahmadinejad, the esteemed erstwhile President of historical truism?

Ayatollah Khamenei is not an unbiased onlooker. Khamenei openly supports President Ahmadinejad, saying the president's views on foreign affairs and social issues were close to his.

So much for possible objectivity of his office.

It appears to me the apparatus of State may have been utilised to enhance a particular vision. Cheating Moi!?

Posted by: markjuliansmith | June 19, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

"New Analysis Points to "FRAUD" in Iran". WOW!!!!!, now who would have thunk it. Now where was Professor Walter R. Mebane, Jr., back in 2000 when the "CHENEY/BUSH" bunch, out right "STOLE" the Presidential election. And the Right-Wing Supreme Court "RUBBER-STAMPED a win for the Cheney camp. We all know how that turned out. It's like "The pot calling the Kettle Black". America can never accuse another Government of "Election Fraud".

Posted by: austininc4 | June 19, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Iran's Supreme Leader Affirms Election Results

Is this the beginning or end of the Iranian Revolution?


Posted by: usadblake | June 19, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

First, evidence suggests that Ahmadinejad won the elections with the same procentage in the rural areas as in the urban ones. Based on the assumptions that the assumptions that most of Ahmadinejad supporters is found amongst the rural inhabitants, this would be a clear sign of fraud. One may say it is so obvious that its almost as if the Ahmadinejad/military/middle generation/warriors of the Iran-Irak war – wing tried to provoke the reformist into an open confrontation.

Secondly, President Obama is wise, not siding in the conflict. One have to keep in mind that the history of the Iranian state is based on confrontation with the U.S. American support would therefore only weaken the supported.

Posted by: KristianNoergaard | June 20, 2009 3:46 AM | Report abuse

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