Mohammad of Vancouver (a Canadian-Iranian) has relatives in the streets of Tehran, but he says that Ahmadinejad likely won the election, and the west, with its “warm ears” for Moussavi, is choosing to hear what it wants from the demonstrations. And Ayatollah Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president, has manipulated the electoral crisis in Iran for his own gain.
Based on opinion polls conducted a few weeks before the election by Terror Free Tomorrow (TFT), Ahmadinejad was expected to win with even a larger margin than announced in the official vote. The polls were reported both in the Huffington Post and the Guardian and had several interesting findings. First, even if the majority of the undecided votes went to the reformist camp, it was still highly likely that Ahmadinejad could secure the 50% + 1 vote needed to avoid a run-off.
Second, more than half of the electorate had a neutral or favorable view of the economic situation, and there was a relatively-even split between those that felt who the president’s economic policy positively contributed to the reduction of inflation and the unemployment rate and those who did not. Lastly, the vast majority of the Iranian electorate believe that religious expertise is a very important attribute of a successful president. While some may claim that bias or fear led to these results, these same Iranians were not afraid to answer extremely-controversial questions. For instance, a free press and free elections were seen as important issues that the government must address– by pluralities of the electorate sampled.
In the actual vote as announced, Ahmadinejad performed 7 points poorer than in the poll by TFT.
Based on my own conversations with people inside Iran who were acting as election monitors, Ahmadinejad did well in the poor areas of Tehran, as well as the rural areas in central Iran and the northeast region of Khorasan and Mashhad. In the Facebook sphere, I am already seeing skepticism among some Mousavi supporters who are not buying into the whole “it is very obvious that the election was rigged” statement. The idea that “the results just don’t make sense” is absurd. Mousavi did very well in Tehran, Yazd, Azarbaijan, and other ethnic-minority regions that he capitalized on while campaigning.
Nate Silver at 538.com agrees that the argument that the election was rigged is weak. (A subsequent post at 538 finds some of the Iranian regional numbers “fishy”.)
But if the election results are not the problem, then what is?
To find the roots of the current crisis, one has to go back and look at the history of Rafsanjani’s presence in the political scene in Iran. Don’t forget that he is the second most powerful man in Iran and his family has amassed wealth beyond the borders of Iran. Rafsanjani also has a network of supporters outside of Iran that stretches from individuals, Iranian press and web sites outside of Iran all the way to the National Iranian American Council, whose positions are strikingly favorable to him.
Rafsanjani challenged Ahmadinejad in the 2005 elections and lost. Ever since then, he has been sabotaging Ahmadinejad’s plans of reforming the political and economic structures in Iran. He has been moving slowly from his moderate position to become the patron saint of the reformist camp. In this round of the election, Rafsanjani did not personally participate, but instead invited Moussavi, Karrubi and Rezaee (all three with historical ties to Rafsanjani) to throw themselves in the maelstrom of the anti-Ahmadinejad ring. The strategy was to create enough voter distractions so as to prevent Ahmadinejad from getting elected in the first round of voting.
Millions of dollars were spent on these three campaigns, most of it provided by Rafsanjani’s children and cronies who look at this kind of spending as a way of investing in the future government. The way this support was distributed among the candidates was very complicated and followed an elaborate pattern. Rezaee was asked to run in order to weaken Ahmadinejad’s support among the Revolutionary Guards, since he was the head of this force during the Iran-Iraq war. The reformist coalition were divided between Karrubi and Moussavi with the former receiving the support of reformist personalities like Karbaschi, Abtahi and Abdi and the latter receiving the support of reformist organizations and political parties (Mosharekat and Mojahedine Enghelab).
This dividing of resources by Rafsanjani was done to diversify and overlap the campaigns at the same time, while Rafsanjani and his children would remain in the background by only providing funds and logistical support to the anti Ahmadinejad camps. But things started to go wrong when opinion polls from inside Moussavi’s own campaign began to show a hardening of support for Ahmadinejad. That is when the nature of his campaign changed. The color green was picked as a protest color, and the rumors of voter fraud began circulating in the Moussavi campaign so as to continue the fight beyond election day.
The culmination of this happened days before the vote. In a letter written to the Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Rafsanjani threatened to start a social volcano if Moussavi was not declared the “obvious winner”. (The letter in Farsi) This suspicious move, together with Rafsanjani’s wife’s comments after casting her vote–encouraging people to pour into the streets if Moussavi was not declared the winner– show that the plans for social disturbances and support from the outside world was the opposition’s plan B, even before the election results were announced. The public confrontation between Rafsanjani and his family from the one side and Khamenei from the other side exposed for the first time the major role played by Rafsanjani and his family in the election.
The night of the election and only two hours after closing of the polls, Moussavi, under pressure by his campaign manager, advanced his prescheduled post-election press conference, planned for Saturday morning, and declared himself the winner in front of CNN, BBC and other foreign press reporters in Iran. There is no explanation for this move. This preemptive assumption of victory was done to sow the seeds of doubts and discontent before any results were even published.
The timing of this early press conference points to the fact that Moussavi’s camps were aware of the existence of warm ears outside of Iran waiting for any kind of news of doubts in Ahmadinejad’s victory.
Otherwise, why wouldn’t Mousavi wait for the morning after to declare himself a winner?
In my opinion, the speedy announcement of results by the Interior Ministry, something that most people quote as the evidence of tampering with the votes, only took place to counterbalance Moussavi’s early declaration of victory. Had Moussavi waited, the results would have appeared more normal and acceptable. As I have already explained, the switch from plan A to plan B required the Moussavi camp to quickly dismiss Ahmadinejad’s victory and move on to challenge the results as soon as possible.
Here are questions that I and my friend Ali Sanaee have been circulating among Iranians to widen the debate about the election results:
1-What is the real material evidence of voter fraud? Moussavi had representatives in more than 95 per cent of the polling stations. Among nearly 6000 representatives who signed off on the polling results, only 220 of them were barred from attending polls, due to lack of identification papers. What happened to the rest?
2- Why did Moussavi and his friends begin to doubt the results a few weeks before the vote? If he had serious doubts about the honesty of the electoral system, why even bother to declare your candidacy? What is Moussavi’s pre-election evidence for fraud?
3- Why Did Moussavi change the time of his post-election press conference abruptly?
4- Why did Rafsanjani and Moussavi’s wives speak out about fraud right after casting their votes?
5-Why did the Western media, who are normally against Iran and pro Israel (CNN, Fox, Voice of America, BBC, Huffington Post, Roozonline, Radio Zamaneh and Radio Farda), describe Moussavi the frontrunner as soon as Moussavi’s camp began to cast doubt on the elections, weeks before the vote? What degree of coordination was there between Moussavi’s campaign and the western media about this message?
6-Why was the Rockefeller Foundation-sponsored survey, done by a credible team of investigators (Terror Free Tomorrow), not highlighted in the coverage of the election in the West?