Did Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad steal his re-election victory
? Hard to know without verifiable evidence. After all, it’s not difficult to believe that supporters of the opposition reform candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who are said to be educated, middle-class and urban, were outnumbered.
Two pieces I came across yesterday, though, offer some pretty compelling evidence that Ahmadinejad really did steal the election. The first, a Q&A from the Guardian, pulls together a number of different strands. Though not well-sourced, if they prove to be true, they add up to a powerful indictment:
- Normally, it takes three days to finish counting the ballots in Iran. This time, Ahmadinejad’s victory was announced in two hours.
- Mousavi supporters say the Iranian interior ministry told Mousavi not long after the polls had closed that it appeared he’d won by a substantial margin.
- According to the official results, Mousavi even lost to Ahmadinejad among members of his own ethnic group, with Ahmadinejad capturing 57 percent of the vote in Mousavi’s home base.
The second piece, a blog post by Middle East expert Juan Cole, argues that an Ahmadinejad victory makes no logical sense given voting trends over the past decade. Though Ahmadinejad won election in 2005, Cole observes that reformist forces boycotted that election. This time, they turned out in droves.
Meanwhile, the Guardian is now reporting that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered an investigation into claims of voter fraud. If you assume that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was exactly what Khamenei wanted — and Khamenei’s statements yesterday certainly indicated that — then this looks like a crack in the facade.
Maybe Khamenei and the people around him fear that Ahmadinejad overreached, and that if they don’t do something, they’ll all be in danger. We can only hope.
Elsewhere, the Boston-based international news service GlobalPost is putting up regular dispatches in a special section called “The Ground Truth in Tehran.”
Global Voices Online, which rounds up blogger commentary, has a section on the Iranian elections, though nothing new since Saturday.