In These New Times

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Iranian Electoral Fraud: A Skeptic’s View

Posted by smeddum on June 17, 2009

Iranian Electoral Fraud: A Skeptic’s View
By Stephen Gowans
So, the presidential election in Iran was rigged. How do we know this? Because the Western media almost invariably say it was. How do they know? Because the main opposition challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi – who officially got far fewer votes than the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — said it was. And how does Mousavi know the election was rigged? Because he didn’t win it.
It’s clear Mousavi thinks he won, but is their any evidence independent of the candidate’s own opinion to back the claim he actually scored an electoral upset?
The answer is, not much. And the evidence on the other side, that Ahmadinejad won, is just as strong, if not stronger.
Washington Post staff writers Glenn Kessler and Jon Cohen, in an article titled “Signs of fraud abound, but not hard evidence,” point out “there were few independent polls taken before the election and no exit polls afterward, making it extremely difficult to assess the accuracy of the vote counts announced by the government.” And making it extremely difficult to assess the merits of Mousavi’s claim that he is the real winner.
But didn’t Mousavi hold large rallies in Tehran? Yes, but so too did Ahmadinejad. And Western media outlets, the journalists say, are concentrated in Tehran, where Mousavi’s support was strongest. That created “a misleading picture of the Iranian electorate.”
Kessler and Cohen spoke to Walter Mebane, a University of Michigan professor who specializes in uncovering crooked elections. He told the reporters “there are suspicious elements, but there’s no solid evidence of fraud.”
That’s why “the United States and other Western powers” have failed to “denounce the results as unacceptable.” There’s just no compelling evidence.
Plus, there’s evidence that Ahmadinejad “simply won a commanding victory.” Flynt Leverett of the New American Foundation, a US ruling class think-tank, says Ahmadinejad is “a really good campaigner” who seemed to have slowed Mousavi’s momentum in their final debate.
More tellingly, a May 11-20 telephone poll co-sponsored by the New American Foundation, and by another ruling class think-thank, Terror Free Tomorrow, “showed Ahmadinejad with a 2 to 1 lead over Mousavi,” consistent with the official outcome of the election.
What hasn’t been acknowledged is that Mousavi may be perpetrating a fraud of his own: that of deliberately creating an expectation he won in order to declare the election illegitimate.
With the Western media long ago having relegated Ahmadinejad to its rogues’ gallery, it was certain that whatever damning allegations Mousavi would hurl at him would be treated by the Western media as gospel. Once CNN, the BBC and other Western media outlets began to broadcast Mousavi’s charges of electoral fraud, the allegations quickly assumed the status of incontestable fact.
Mousavi declared himself the winner of the election before the polls were even closed, standard operating procedure for those seeking to instigate a color revolution. Color revolutions are insurrections sparked by claims of electoral fraud. Failing at the polls, a challenger calls for his supporters to take to the streets to pressure the government to step down. The Western media have played a role by making the charges of electoral fraud seem legitimate, by the simple ploy of treating them as such.
While the election may very well have been rigged, there is little solid evidence it was. At the same time, there is reason to be suspicious of Mousavi’s motivations. And as always, there’s reason to be skeptical of Western media coverage of foreign affairs and to be equally wary of their power to create incontestable truths – freighted with political baggage — out of thin evidence.

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