Monday, June 22, 2009

"Leaked Memo" on Iran's Election Revisited

Iran Behind the Mask?
(Image from New York Times)

On June 18th, I expressed open skepticism about a memo supposedly written by the Iranian Minister of Interior, Sadegh Mahsouli, and sent to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, providing the actual results on votes cast in the recent presidential election in Iran. My suspicions were based partly on a pre-election poll conducted for Terror Free Tomorrow by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, who told us in their Washington Post article, "The Iranian People Speak" (Monday, June 15, 2009), that Ahmadinejad was far ahead, and because of that poll, I conceded that the vast majority of Iranians may actually have voted to return this current, hardline president to power.

However, I asked for clarification from experts and received a response from an Iranian, one of my former political science students at Yonsei's Underwood International College, who openly questioned the official election results (though he did not express a decided opinion on the memo's authenticity). Also, a regular reader offered a link that questioned whether or not the opinion poll by Ballen and Doherty offered accurate predictions. Moreover, a recent opinion piece, "A Different Iranian Revolution," published in the New York Times (June 18, 2009) by a certain "Shane M.," a student in Iran who has adopted this very 'Western' pseudonym, argued that even if the opinion poll were accurate when it was taken, the percentages could well have shifted radically by the time of the recent election:

Let's also forget the polls, carried out in May by Terror Free Tomorrow: The Center for Public Opinion, that have been making the rounds this past week, with numbers that showed Mr. Ahmadinejad well ahead in the election, even in Mr. Moussavi's hometown, Tabriz. Maybe last month Mr. Ahmadinejad was indeed on his way to victory. But then came the debates.

Starting on June 1, the country was treated to an experience without precedent in the 30 years of the Islamic Republic of Iran: six back-to-back live and unscripted debates among the four presidential candidates. Iranians everywhere were riveted, and the poll numbers began to move.

By the Wednesday before the election, Mr. Moussavi was backed by about 44 percent of respondents, while Mr. Ahmadinejad was favored by around 38 percent. So let's not cloud the results with numbers that were, like bagels, stale a week later. (And let's ignore the claim that polling by Iranians in Iran is "notoriously untrustworthy." A consortium of pollsters and social scientists working for a diverse range of political and social organizations systematically measured public opinion for months before the election.)

Such a major shift has happened before. A month before the 1997 elections, the establishment candidate, Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri, was trouncing his opponents in surveys. Then, a week before the vote, the tide changed, bringing to power a reformer, Mohammad Khatami.

The reason for this fluidity in voter preference is simple. Iran has no real political parties that can command a fixed number of predictable votes. With elections driven primarily by personality politics, Iranians are always swing voters. So Mr. Moussavi, hampered by a lack of access to state-run news media and allowed only two months to campaign, began to make inroads into Mr. Ahmadinejad's lead only during the final days leading into the election, his poll numbers rising with his visits to provincial cities and the debate appearances.
These details -- offered by one who sounds as though he knows what he's writing about -- put the memo in a very different light. It may indeed be fake (as the usually politically astute JK insists), but it might also nevertheless offer analytical results calculated by some Iranian willing to put forward projections at to the 'real' details and deciding to publicize them in a way guaranteed to get attention.

Or the memo may really be authentic.

I await more comments -- on the memo, the election, and the direction that events are taking us -- but I note in passing that if voter preference is so fluid and personality-based as "Shane" maintains, then perhaps nobody, not even the Iranians, can tell us where they are going (though this direction would be welcome).

Labels: , , ,


At 3:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Iranians are always swing voters."

This I would agree with, wholeheartedly. I would also agree that the absence of real parties coupled with the obvious differences between US campaigns - that being, US campaigns never end while the "real" Iranian campaigns may last at most, a couple of months.

However, I remain firm in my conviction that "an internal memo" showing those sorts of numbers would never have been "leaked" and therefore it was fake. (Notice the slight recalibration.) Events of the past few days have led me to do some "considering."


At 4:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll probably be posting on this again tomorrow, for I've read more evidence that calls into question the official vote tally.

Events are overtaking this blog, however, so I may not be so much reporting as merely analyzing after the fact.

We might wake up the next morning and discover that the Islamic Republic has been overthrown. Who knows?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been somewhat of an "interested observer" of things Iran ever since I missed a "Home for Christmas" boat ride in '79. Instead the boat detoured to the Persian Gulf and until Ronnie assumed office, I had to sit and watch (among other things). For much of that time I was admittedly, "somewhat confused" and quite often surprised at the speed with which events occurred.

I have to admit though, at present I find myself far and away more surprised at the pace(Read your off-site) and the nature of the specific events.

"Events are overtaking this blog.."

No doo doo.

No analysis whatsoever can be relied upon at the moment. I do however expect continued surprises. I too have read "differences of opinions" whaere thosee tallies are concerned.


(Now this is weird-when I cliced "publish" I must've timed out. My new letter set consists of a word I'm reading alot lately.)

At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully Cran won't notice how my spelling accuracy began to resemble his toward the end of my previous comment.


At 8:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I was just thinking on my subway ride to Ewha Womans University this morning that blogging is now to twitter what snail mail was to email . . . unbearably slow for keeping up with events. But I'll never twitter. I don't even like my cellular phone.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But, keep in mind, a 140 character limit makes it extremely diffficult to add "however..."

Of course you wouldn't know about this sort of thing, but I liken it to an opening line with a pretty young woman at the next bar stool. Of course keep it simple - but the ability to quickly add "however" is priceless.


At 8:22 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I try to keep my 'howevers' hidden from the ladies . . . especially since I met my wife.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 5:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After doing some fascinating reading I consider the memo to be "real."

"Real" meaning that it could have been produced by the specified ministry... "real" also in the sense that it is a "real fake."


At 5:39 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'll keep looking into this, JK.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home