Were the declared results of the Iranian election accurate? Did hardliner Ahmadinejad win resoundingly?
Western governments reacted quite cautiously to the announced results - primarily because they had no information (such as pre-election polls or exit polls) to gauge the fairness. Obama was excoriated by the American right for not speaking out, but as he said, he didn't want America to become the issue, and to have external and internal groupings close ranks simply because of an American pronouncement.
But as heard on BBC World Service radio, an analysis from the UK's Chatham House and St Andrews University has now cast serious doubts on the validity of the declaration. The research was conducted on declared results specifically on a province-by-province basis. Results indicate, inter alia, that:
- in two conservative provinces, a greater than 100% turnout was recorded.
- did an increase in voter turnout swing it? No, because the greatest swing to Ahmadinejad didn't occur in the provinces with greatest increases in turnout.
- For the official results to be true, in a third of the provinces Ahmadinejad would have had to take all previous conservative and centrist votes, all new votes, and 44% of previous reformist votes, which belies continued tensions between reformists and conservatives.
- Ahmadinejad was "markedly unpopular in rural areas", which belies the claim that he triumphed in the more rural provinces.
The BBC's report comprised an interview with one of the researchers, who added several years of recent anecdotal personal experience in Iran, which fleshed out and backed up the analysis of figures.
Further comment was offered that there was an equivalent divide behind the scenes. One aspect of this was that former president Rafsanjani, a reformist, is currently chair of the influential Assembly of Experts.
The Iranian ruling Guardian Council had been assessing some of the results, but this evaluation was of a relatively small number of votes, and didn't look at wider provincial results. They thus reported no major irregularities.
The BBC report also indicated that new (internet-based) media was playing a significant part in information dissemination, so press restrictions are, to some extent at least, not as effective as those in power would like.
The world is watching, yes. But at this point it's hard to see the status quo being overturned: current unrest in Iran is not - yet - at revolutionary pitch. When - if - it all settles, the only lasting effect may be a taint on the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad, and Iran's voice in the world.
Sadly, I can never find web references to the full BBC radio reports, but I found one BBC report on that analysis here; the Christian Science Monitor also has a summary here. Chatham House's full report is here.