Monday, 20 July, 2009

If Ahmadinejad won hands down why didn’t he count the votes?

Apparently, Ahmadinejad’s victory in the presidential polls in Iran was a surprise only to Western columnists, who had taken Tehran, the capital, for Iran, the country. While Ahmadinejad isn’t popular in Tehran – and didn’t get votes there – he did well everywhere else.

This fortnight’s Frontline writes, “From the outset, it was only the Western media pundits who were predicting a victory for Mousavi. There was no doubt that he swept the poll in northern Teheran and other affluent suburbs in various Iranian cities. But the majority of Iranians, who continue to be poor, obviously preferred to renew their trust in the incumbent President…

…Most of the pre-election opinion polls conducted since March showed that Ahmadinejad was a clear front runner. The only poll conducted by a Western agency, on behalf of the BBC and the NBC, predicted an 89 per cent voter turnout. The poll conducted by the independent Centre of Public Opinion (CPO), which is backed by the Rockefeller Foundation, a few weeks before the election revealed that Ahmadinejad had a nation-wide advantage of two to one against his closest rival, Mousavi.

In the actual election, the turnout was 85 per cent, with Ahmadinejad getting 66.2 per cent of the votes polled and Mousavi 33.8 per cent. The Western media mainly covered the big rallies addressed by Mousavi in Teheran and other cities. Ahmadinejad criss-crossed the country addressing hundreds of equally well-attended rallies. In the 2005 presidential election, too, Ahmadinejad got almost the same percentage of votes. His rival, Rafsanjani, secured 35 per cent of the votes.”

Some people of Tehran have made the same mistake as Western commentators. They keep asking, “Where’s my vote?” Ahmadinejad’s answer should be: “Your vote’s been counted and your candidate lost.”

Fair enough. Only, it’s not so easy. Because last fortnight’s Frontline wrote, “Mousavi’s camp knew that it would have to fight hard to get as many votes as possible from the 46 million voters that comprise Iran’s electorate. Ahmadinejad was declared winner after only 20 million of the ballots had been counted.”

In other words, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner prematurely. We cannot say whether he had an insurmountable lead unless we know where his opponents stood (at the point when results were declared). Why did their election commission declare the results before counting all the votes, more so because pre-poll surveys showed the result to be a foregone conclusion? Very strange… 

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