Analysis Casts Doubts on Ahmadinejad's Victory

CAIRO (AP) - An analysis by a British think tank highlights
profound differences between voting patterns in Iran's recent
election and hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first
victory in 2005, casting doubt on whether they could have occurred
without manipulation.

The analysis by the London-based Chatham House could provide
ammunition for supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the pro-reform
candidate who claims he was the true winner in the June 12

The dispute has sparked more than a week of unrest in Iran that
has killed at least 17 people and presented the regime with its
greatest challenge since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran's highest electoral authority acknowledged irregularities
in the election for the first time Monday but insisted they did not
affect the outcome.

The official results showed that Ahmadinejad received 13 million
more votes than he and other conservatives got in the 2005
election, according to the Chatham House report, which was released

The results would have required him to receive support in a
third of the provinces from all former conservative voters, all
former centrist voters, all new voters and almost half of all
former reformist voters - an unlikely scenario, said the study.

Discontent with Ahmadinejad was running high among reformists
and even some conservatives unhappy with his handling of the
economy and his antagonistic stance toward the international

The final tally was 62.6 percent of the vote for Ahmadinejad and
33.75 percent for Mousavi - a landslide victory in a race that was
perceived to be much closer.

Such a huge margin went against the expectation that a high
turnout - a record 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million eligible
voters - would boost Mousavi, whose campaign energized young people
to vote. About a third of the eligible voters were under 30.

Ahmadinejad has called the June 12 election "real and free."

The Chatham House report cast doubt on the idea that large
numbers of conservative voters who had not voted in previous
election might have come out this time to support Ahmadinejad.

While the official results indicate Ahmadinejad increased the
conservative vote by 113 percent compared with the 2005 election,
there is little correlation at the provincial level between the
increase in turnout and the swing to the president.

"This challenges the notion that Ahmadinejad's victory was due
to the massive participation of a previously silent conservative
majority," said the study.

The research found that turnout in two provinces, Mazandaran and
Yazd, was more than 100 percent. The practice of using identity
documents of dead people to cast additional ballots is a common and
widespread problem in Iran, said the report.

The Guardian Council, which certifies election results,
acknowledged Monday that more votes were cast in 50 districts than
there were registered voters.

But this "has no effect on the result of the elections,"
council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei was quoted as saying on the
state TV Web site.

International monitors are barred from observing Iranian
elections, and Mousavi has charged that representatives of his
campaign were expelled from polling centers even though each
candidate was allowed one observer at each location.

The Guardian Council, which is closely allied with Iran's
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has agreed to recount a
sampling of 10 percent of the ballot boxes nationwide. But Mousavi
has said he does not believe the council is neutral and has
demanded a new election.

Many commentators have pointed to Ahmadinejad's support in rural
areas as the reason for his political success. But the study said
conservative candidates, particularly Ahmadinejad, were "markedly
unpopular" in rural areas in past presidential elections.

Ahmadinejad has campaigned in all of the provinces, but the
think tank cast doubt on the 2009 results that showed a sudden
shift to the president in rural areas.

"This increase in support for Ahmadinejad amongst rural and
ethnic minority voters is out of step with previous trends,
extremely large in scale, and central to the question of why (or
indeed whether) he won in June 2009," said the study.

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