Friday, June 2, 2017

The Dispute over Vote-Rigging in Iran's Election - Mohammad Amin

by Mohammad Amin

Two weeks after Iran’s presidential election, the two main factions of this theocracy rivaling in these polls have escalated their cross allegations of vote-rigging

Two weeks after Iran’s presidential election, the two main factions of this theocracy rivaling in these polls have escalated their cross allegations of vote-rigging.

On Saturday, a senior mullah by the name of Movahedi Kermani, the leader of the most important state mullahs’ group, “Resistant Clerics,” issued a statement in this regard.

“The votes of Raisi, (the Supreme Leader’s preferred candidate) are halal; although some of the votes may have been rigged,” it read in part.
This was a reply to the allegations raised by the faction loyal to President Hassan Rouhani. In return, the Khamenei camp claims 2.5 million votes for Rouhani were rigged.

In Tehran, based on classified reports, the Revolutionary Guards implemented a plan ordering all their paramilitary Basij members to vote two or even three times for Raisi.

Another classified report reveals another manipulation in how the vote results were announced:

When the final vote numbers of Iranian President Hassan and Rouhani and Raisi are revealed, based on a decision made by the most senior officials, they first mushroom the vote numbers. Then they added 6.5 million votes each to Rouhani and Raisi.

This is the mechanism usually used in all elections. To this end, both factions of this regime, despite all their quarrels, reach an agreement. This is how they claim 41.2 million people took part in the May 19th presidential election, and conclude a participation rate of 73%.

A total of 12 presidential elections have been held in Iran from 1980 to this day and the average voter participation (based on regime reports) have been 67.1%.

If there were no evidence of vote-rigging in the election statistics, this question would remain: How can a country suffer from deep and acute social injustice, and yet enjoy one of the highest voter participation percentage rates in the world?

Moreover, in this year’s election, one other biting question was added: The candidate of the ruling faction was Raisi, a senior perpetrator in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. The utter abhorrence of the public provided a major boost to Rouhani’s victory. Despite all this, how are we to believe 16 million Iranians voted for him?

Other evidence challenge regime statistics in this election:

At around 9 p.m. on May 19, with the vote continuing, the Interior Ministry announced the number of voters at 25.9 million.

Voting was extended for another three hours, to 12 midnight. The next morning the Interior Ministry announced the total number of votes at 41.2 million. Meaning while during the entire day and 13 hours of polling the number of voters had reached nearly 26 million, in the last three hours suddenly more than 15 voters rushed to the polls!

Another deceptive measure is how senior officials take advantage of voided votes. This includes votes without any candidate’s name or a stamp, or the voter not reaching the legal vote, or… Based on Iran’s election laws, voided votes must not be calculated in voter participation numbers. In the recent elections, there were at least 1.2 million spoiled ballots (averaging 3% of the total votes). However, the relevant officials considered them in statistics regarding general voter participation.

Another issue is the number of official voting forms printed. Iran has a total number of 56 million eligible voters. As a result, only a certain percentage more than the total number of voters must be printed. However, 100 million voting papers were printed for the recent presidential election. These additional votes are a method used to rig election results.

All these pretexts hinder an unbiased analysis to determine the exact number of voters in Iran. To add insult to injury, Iran’s regime has never permitted foreign observers to monitor the elections. Despite all this, if we seek a close to reality estimate of the number of Iranians participating in this election, we should pay certain attention to the number of votes cast by Iranians living abroad. This is where the regime lacks any vote rigging machine.

There are 2.5 million Iranian eligible voters living abroad, according to Interior Ministry reports. From this total only a little over 168,000 people cast their votes on May 19th. Reports show only 30,000 in the United States, 3,300 in France and 12,500 in France voted.

As a result, the voter participation rate of Iranians abroad was merely 6.7%. The huge gap between this and the 73% announced inside Iran, is the scope of vote rigging.

Of course, this is not a method unique to Iran and is quite normal in previous dictatorships such as Belarus and Algeria.

Belgian theoretician Andreas Schedler, in his book, Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition, refers to the fact that most political states in developing countries are a certain form of autocracy based on unfair elections.

Shedler refers to a wide variety of developing countries, such as Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe, from Russia to Singapore in which a formal democracy is in place, especially in holding numerous elections. And yet, the principles of free and fair democratic elections are tarnished through rigging the election system on a wide scale.

Three researchers by the names of Carl Henrik Knutsen, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård, and Tore Wig, issued research results analyzing 259 authoritarian regimes between the years 1946 and 2008.

These researchers believed the most important motivation in holding these elections is to lengthen the lifespan of a dictatorship regime. Through these elections, dictators are able to gain legitimacy to continue their rule.

Evaluating the 38 elections held in Iran from 1980 to 2017 confirm the results of the abovementioned research.

The Iranian theocracy’s most important objective in holding these elections is to deliver a completely flip-flopped image of the true Iran; a country where a small minority rules over a large majority demanding an end to the status quo.

Mohammad Amin (@EconomieIran) is a senior research fellow at the Paris-based Fondation d'Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient, FEMO (Foundation for the Study of the Middle East) - He has written several books and essays about the ruling theocracy, the transformation of Iran’s political economy under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East region. Co-author of the book, Where is Iran Going?” printed in Paris by Autrement.


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