The Washington Post

Why it’s pretty obvious the Syria vote totals are fabricated

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 9.45.45 PM

I don’t know if Secretary of State John F. Kerry is correct when he describes the recent Syrian elections as a “farce,” but the election totals definitely seem to be wrong.

I was made aware of this by Anatoly Vorobey, who wrote:

It’s immediate from this page [from the Syrian Arab News Agency; see above image] that the results are fraudulent, for the reason that I think haven’t been noticed in English-language press (or at least I couldn’t find a mention):

They are too accurate.

There’s 11,634,412 valid ballots, and Assad won with 10,319,723 votes at 88.7%. That’s not 88.7%, that’s 88.699996%. Or in other words, that’s 88.7% of 11,634,412, which is 10,319,723.444, rounded to a whole person. All the other percentages in the results are the same way, so given the magnitude of the numbers, it’s evident someone took the total number, used a calculator and rounded.

This was first noticed, to my knowledge, by a Russian blogger Roman Tumaykin. The reason he looked at the vote counts in the first place was that a few weeks ago there was an identical case with a sham referendum in a Ukrainian province of Lugansk, controlled by separatists. The vote counts there were also all “correct” up to a rounding to a person.

I checked the numbers and they confirm what Vorobey wrote. From the official news release:

Speaker of the People’s Assembly, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham announced Wednesday that Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad won the post of the Syrian Arab Republic’s President for a new constitutional term . . . The number of those who have the right to take part in the presidential elections inside and outside Syria reached at 15.845.575 citizens and the number of participants in the voting reached at 11.634.412 while the number of invalid papers reached at 442.108 with 3.8%.

He added that the number of votes each candidate has gained in a proper sequence was: Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad is 10.319.723 votes with 88.7% out of the correct votes, Dr. Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri, got 500,279 votes with a percentage of 4.3% of the valid votes, while Mr. Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar got 372,301 with a percentage of 3.2% of the valid votes.

Speaker al-Laham said that the announcement of results came in accordance with article No. 86 of the Constitution and item B of Article 79 of the General Elections’ Law, expressing, by the name of People’s Assembly, his pride of the Syrian people’s option and their correct decision, blessing, at the same time, this Arab leader who is confident in his people’s will.

Let’s try it out:

Assad: 0.887 * 11634412 = 10319723.4
Nouri: 0.043 * 11634412 = 500279.7
Hajjar: 0.032 * 11634412 = 372301.2

And even the invalid papers:

0.038 * 11634412 = 442107.7


I hate to expose this one. Every time we publicize a new method of election fraud, it becomes that much harder to catch next time.

But is this actually fraud? I can’t say for sure, as I don’t know where the numbers purportedly come from. It is possible, for example, that the exact totals are not as reported, and what happened is that one person in the election office computed the vote proportions to the nearest tenth of a percent, and then a different person took these percentages and multiplied them by the total of 11634412 to get the numbers that were reported.

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University. His books include Bayesian Data Analysis; Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks; and Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Be a man and cry
Deaf banjo player teaches thousands
Sleep advice you won't find in baby books
Play Videos
Drawing as an act of defiance
A flood of refugees from Syria but only a trickle to America
Chicago's tacos, four ways
Play Videos
What you need to know about filming the police
What you need to know about trans fats
Syrian refugee: 'I’m committed to the power of music'
Play Videos
Riding the X2 with D.C.'s most famous rapper
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Europe's migrant crisis, explained
Next Story
Kim Yi Dionne and Boniface Dulani · June 11, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.