The Questions Surrounding Iran's Election

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The June 16 front-page story on the Iranian election said that the "case for a rigged outcome is far from ironclad" ["Signs of Fraud Abound, But Not Hard Evidence"]. But when an unelected ayatollah -- the "supreme leader," no less -- controls much of the media, the military and the courts, the whole state is effectively rigged. It's hard to imagine any election being truly fair under such conditions, regardless of the extent to which the ballot boxes are stuffed.


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The June 15 op-ed "The Iranian People Speak," which described a poll of Iran's electorate, was the kind of analysis that gives polling a bad name. The authors suggested that their poll shows that the announced results are probably accurate. But there are two major problems.

First, the poll was taken three to four weeks before the election. A lot can happen in the last month of any election, and the Iranian opposition claims to have surged in popularity during that time. The opposition leaders may or may not be correct, but this poll was taken too early to know. Ask President Thomas E. Dewey about this phenomenon.

Second, the poll showed that 34 percent of those polled said they would vote for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while 14 percent would vote for Mir Hossein Mousavi. In American electoral polls, most of the undecided go against the incumbent. Whether this is true in Iran is uncertain to me -- and it should be to the authors, too.


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