Category: Mohammad Amin

The Dispute over Vote-Rigging in Iran's Election


Two weeks after Iran’s presidential election, the two main factions of this theocracy rivaling in these polls have escalated their cross allegations of vote-rigging.

On Saturday, a senior mullah by the name of Movahedi Kermani, the leader of the most important state mullahs’ group, “Resistant Clerics,” issued a statement in this regard.

“The votes of Raisi, (the Supreme Leader’s preferred candidate) are halal; although some of the votes may have been rigged,” it read in part.

This was a reply to the allegations raised by the faction loyal to President Hassan Rouhani. In return, the Khamenei camp claims 2.5 million votes for Rouhani were rigged.

In Tehran, based on classified reports, the Revolutionary Guards implemented a plan ordering all their paramilitary Basij members to vote two or even three times for Raisi.

Another classified report reveals another manipulation in how the vote results were announced:

When the final vote numbers of Iranian President Hassan and Rouhani and Raisi are revealed, based on a decision made by the most senior officials, they first mushroom the vote numbers. Then they added 6.5 million votes each to Rouhani and Raisi.

This is the mechanism usually used in all elections. To this end, both factions of this regime, despite all their quarrels, reach an agreement. This is how they claim 41.2 million people took part in the May 19th presidential election, and conclude a participation rate of 73%.

A total of 12 presidential elections have been held in Iran from 1980 to this day and the average voter participation (based on regime reports) have been 67.1%.

If there were no evidence of vote-rigging in the election statistics, this question would remain: How can a country suffer from deep and acute social injustice, and yet enjoy one of the highest voter participation percentage rates in the world?

Moreover, in this year’s election, one other biting question was added: The candidate of the ruling faction was Raisi, a senior perpetrator in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. The utter abhorrence of the public provided a major boost to Rouhani’s victory. Despite all this, how are we to believe 16 million Iranians voted for him?

Other evidence challenge regime statistics in this election:

At around 9 p.m. on May 19, with the vote continuing, the Interior Ministry announced the number of voters at 25.9 million.

Voting was extended for another three hours, to 12 midnight. The next morning the Interior Ministry announced the total number of votes at 41.2 million. Meaning while during the entire day and 13 hours of polling the number of voters had reached nearly 26 million, in the last three hours suddenly more than 15 voters rushed to the polls!

Another deceptive measure is how senior officials take advantage of voided votes. This includes votes without any candidate’s name or a stamp, or the voter not reaching the legal vote, or… Based on Iran’s election laws, voided votes must not be calculated in voter participation numbers. In the recent elections, there were at least 1.2 million spoiled ballots (averaging 3% of the total votes). However, the relevant officials considered them in statistics regarding general voter participation.

Another issue is the number of official voting forms printed. Iran has a total number of 56 million eligible voters. As a result, only a certain percentage more than the total number of voters must be printed. However, 100 million voting papers were printed for the recent presidential election. These additional votes are a method used to rig election results.

All these pretexts hinder an unbiased analysis to determine the exact number of voters in Iran. To add insult to injury, Iran’s regime has never permitted foreign observers to monitor the elections. Despite all this, if we seek a close to reality estimate of the number of Iranians participating in this election, we should pay certain attention to the number of votes cast by Iranians living abroad. This is where the regime lacks any vote rigging machine.

There are 2.5 million Iranian eligible voters living abroad, according to Interior Ministry reports. From this total only a little over 168,000 people cast their votes on May 19th. Reports show only 30,000 in the United States, 3,300 in France and 12,500 in France voted.

As a result, the voter participation rate of Iranians abroad was merely 6.7%. The huge gap between this and the 73% announced inside Iran, is the scope of vote rigging.

Of course, this is not a method unique to Iran and is quite normal in previous dictatorships such as Belarus and Algeria.

Belgian theoretician Andreas Schedler, in his book, Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition, refers to the fact that most political states in developing countries are a certain form of autocracy based on unfair elections.

Shedler refers to a wide variety of developing countries, such as Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe, from Russia to Singapore in which a formal democracy is in place, especially in holding numerous elections. And yet, the principles of free and fair democratic elections are tarnished through rigging the election system on a wide scale.

Three researchers by the names of Carl Henrik Knutsen, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård, and Tore Wig, issued research results analyzing 259 authoritarian regimes between the years 1946 and 2008.

These researchers believed the most important motivation in holding these elections is to lengthen the lifespan of a dictatorship regime. Through these elections, dictators are able to gain legitimacy to continue their rule.

Evaluating the 38 elections held in Iran from 1980 to 2017 confirm the results of the abovementioned research.

The Iranian theocracy’s most important objective in holding these elections is to deliver a completely flip-flopped image of the true Iran; a country where a small minority rules over a large majority demanding an end to the status quo.

Mohammad Amin (@EconomieIran) is a senior research fellow at the Paris-based Fondation d’Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient, FEMO (Foundation for the Study of the Middle East) – http://www.fondationfemo.com. He has written several books and essays about the ruling theocracy, the transformation of Iran’s political economy under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East region. Co-author of the book, “Where is Iran Going?” printed in Paris by Autrement.

Two weeks after Iran’s presidential election, the two main factions of this theocracy rivaling in these polls have escalated their cross allegations of vote-rigging.

On Saturday, a senior mullah by the name of Movahedi Kermani, the leader of the most important state mullahs’ group, “Resistant Clerics,” issued a statement in this regard.

“The votes of Raisi, (the Supreme Leader’s preferred candidate) are halal; although some of the votes may have been rigged,” it read in part.

This was a reply to the allegations raised by the faction loyal to President Hassan Rouhani. In return, the Khamenei camp claims 2.5 million votes for Rouhani were rigged.

In Tehran, based on classified reports, the Revolutionary Guards implemented a plan ordering all their paramilitary Basij members to vote two or even three times for Raisi.

Another classified report reveals another manipulation in how the vote results were announced:

When the final vote numbers of Iranian President Hassan and Rouhani and Raisi are revealed, based on a decision made by the most senior officials, they first mushroom the vote numbers. Then they added 6.5 million votes each to Rouhani and Raisi.

This is the mechanism usually used in all elections. To this end, both factions of this regime, despite all their quarrels, reach an agreement. This is how they claim 41.2 million people took part in the May 19th presidential election, and conclude a participation rate of 73%.

A total of 12 presidential elections have been held in Iran from 1980 to this day and the average voter participation (based on regime reports) have been 67.1%.

If there were no evidence of vote-rigging in the election statistics, this question would remain: How can a country suffer from deep and acute social injustice, and yet enjoy one of the highest voter participation percentage rates in the world?

Moreover, in this year’s election, one other biting question was added: The candidate of the ruling faction was Raisi, a senior perpetrator in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. The utter abhorrence of the public provided a major boost to Rouhani’s victory. Despite all this, how are we to believe 16 million Iranians voted for him?

Other evidence challenge regime statistics in this election:

At around 9 p.m. on May 19, with the vote continuing, the Interior Ministry announced the number of voters at 25.9 million.

Voting was extended for another three hours, to 12 midnight. The next morning the Interior Ministry announced the total number of votes at 41.2 million. Meaning while during the entire day and 13 hours of polling the number of voters had reached nearly 26 million, in the last three hours suddenly more than 15 voters rushed to the polls!

Another deceptive measure is how senior officials take advantage of voided votes. This includes votes without any candidate’s name or a stamp, or the voter not reaching the legal vote, or… Based on Iran’s election laws, voided votes must not be calculated in voter participation numbers. In the recent elections, there were at least 1.2 million spoiled ballots (averaging 3% of the total votes). However, the relevant officials considered them in statistics regarding general voter participation.

Another issue is the number of official voting forms printed. Iran has a total number of 56 million eligible voters. As a result, only a certain percentage more than the total number of voters must be printed. However, 100 million voting papers were printed for the recent presidential election. These additional votes are a method used to rig election results.

All these pretexts hinder an unbiased analysis to determine the exact number of voters in Iran. To add insult to injury, Iran’s regime has never permitted foreign observers to monitor the elections. Despite all this, if we seek a close to reality estimate of the number of Iranians participating in this election, we should pay certain attention to the number of votes cast by Iranians living abroad. This is where the regime lacks any vote rigging machine.

There are 2.5 million Iranian eligible voters living abroad, according to Interior Ministry reports. From this total only a little over 168,000 people cast their votes on May 19th. Reports show only 30,000 in the United States, 3,300 in France and 12,500 in France voted.

As a result, the voter participation rate of Iranians abroad was merely 6.7%. The huge gap between this and the 73% announced inside Iran, is the scope of vote rigging.

Of course, this is not a method unique to Iran and is quite normal in previous dictatorships such as Belarus and Algeria.

Belgian theoretician Andreas Schedler, in his book, Electoral Authoritarianism: The Dynamics of Unfree Competition, refers to the fact that most political states in developing countries are a certain form of autocracy based on unfair elections.

Shedler refers to a wide variety of developing countries, such as Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe, from Russia to Singapore in which a formal democracy is in place, especially in holding numerous elections. And yet, the principles of free and fair democratic elections are tarnished through rigging the election system on a wide scale.

Three researchers by the names of Carl Henrik Knutsen, Håvard Mokleiv Nygård, and Tore Wig, issued research results analyzing 259 authoritarian regimes between the years 1946 and 2008.

These researchers believed the most important motivation in holding these elections is to lengthen the lifespan of a dictatorship regime. Through these elections, dictators are able to gain legitimacy to continue their rule.

Evaluating the 38 elections held in Iran from 1980 to 2017 confirm the results of the abovementioned research.

The Iranian theocracy’s most important objective in holding these elections is to deliver a completely flip-flopped image of the true Iran; a country where a small minority rules over a large majority demanding an end to the status quo.

Mohammad Amin (@EconomieIran) is a senior research fellow at the Paris-based Fondation d’Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient, FEMO (Foundation for the Study of the Middle East) – http://www.fondationfemo.com. He has written several books and essays about the ruling theocracy, the transformation of Iran’s political economy under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East region. Co-author of the book, “Where is Iran Going?” printed in Paris by Autrement.



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Iran elections: Rouhani declares 'I will kiss the Supreme Leader's hand a dozen times'


On Monday, May 15, the Iranian elections scene witnessed two important events: Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, (and a controversial candidate), left the elections for the benefit of a top contender, Ebrahim Raisi (the 1988 massacre judge).

At the same time, the incumbent president Hassan Rohani, in an election speech in Tabriz (the largest city in the Northeast) said: “On some issues, I am ready to kiss Supreme Leader’s hand dozens of times.

The meaning of the first event is clear. The Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, is tilting his hand toward his preferred candidates. I predicted in an interview with French newspaper La Croix on May 5, 2017 that it would come down to just two: “Out of six candidates, four of them are extras and decor elements. Two candidates remain: Hassan Rouhani and his main competitor Ebrahim Raisi.

Rouhani’s case in particular is worth watching since not all signs point to his being in Khamenei’s favor. For one thing, his claimed readiness “to kiss the Supreme Leader’s hand dozens of times” is considered despicable in the Iranian society.

Some of the experts believe his use of these words were to add balance his speech from last week. In an election meeting in Hamedan (a big city in the west of Iran) he said to his competitive faction: “It is 38 years that you are only executing.” In response, Khamenei in a public speech threatened him for that, saying “he will receive a slap” without mentioning his name.

Another interpretation is that Rouhani is giving a conciliatory proposal to Khamenei.  According to informed sources in Tehran, in recent days, the Supreme Leader has summoned Eshaq Jahangiri, Rouhani‘s deputy, and a withdrawn candidate, asking him to make his boss make a deal with the IRGC (the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps). This compromise means Rohani will be president on the condition that 20% of Iran’s oil revenue and its share of the cabinet be allocated to IRGC.

If we accept this interpretation three different alternatives could be considered for May 19 election:

A – Khamenei with this proposal may be trying to deceive Rouhani into stopping his harsh comments, because these comments can activate dangerous social discontent. In this case, it would be easier for Khamenei to organize the elections in favor of his preferred candidate.

B – Khamenei would accept Rouhani’s presidency. (Of course; on a condition, that he is totally obedient to him.)

C – Khamenei would take a risk and engineer a major coup d’etat to make Raisi the president.

Based on the last 38 years’ experience, either of the two candidates could become president, and there would be no difference in foreign policy, defense or security issues, let alone the handling of the greater part of the economy. (Which is under the Supreme Leader’s and IRGC’s control anyway) but how the election will be held could nevertheless make for far-reaching political instability.

 

Mohammad Amin (@EconomieIran) is a senior research fellow for the Paris-based Foundation d’Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient (FEMO) or Foundation for the Study of the Middle East. He has written several books and essays about the ruling theocracy, the transformation of Iran’s political economy under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East



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Iran’s presidential election – Ahmadinejad’s disqualification boosts or hurts Rouhani?


The Guardian Council, a very powerful and influential body in Iran’s theocracy, voted on Thursday to disqualify Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the regime’s president from 2005 to 2013, announcing he lacks the necessary standards to take part as a candidate in the May 19 presidential election.

 

This council, consisting of six senior mullahs appointed directly by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stamps approval to the parliament’s bills and vets all election candidates.

Based on the decision of this council, the candidates able to take part in the May 19 polls are: the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, current Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former head of Iran’s Physical Education Organization Hashemitaba, Ebrahim Raisi, a mullah involved in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, former industry ministry Mostafa Mirsalim and Tehran’s current mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.

Ahmadinejad’s disqualification was not unexpected. Last September Khamenei used a public speech to ban him from announcing his candidacy. However, last week he officially registered as a presidential candidate. The mullahs’ main problem was not the fact that Ahmadinejad discredited the Supreme Leader. He also took a step in contrast to measures aimed at “engineering the elections.”

This is a common term used in theocratic elections, meaning centralized control over all presidential election phases to have the Supreme Leader’s considered candidate come out victorious.

Despite being a headache and a thorn in Khamenei’s back, Ahmadinejad still remains a member of the ruling faction. If he had surpassed this phase, he would be able to gain the support of the Supreme Leader’s faction and decrease Raisi’s chances of becoming president.

To this end, the elimination of Ahmadinejad prevents the fragmentation of Khamenei’s faction and prevents such a development ending in Rouhani’s favor. Mirsalim and Hashemitaba lack any significance in the upcoming election. Forecasts show Ghalibaf and Jahangiri will also step aside in favor of their allies. As a result, the election “war” in this theocracy will be between Rouhani and Raisi.

Despite the election results, Ahmadinejad joined the ranks most other presidents in the Iranian regime’s history.

1st president – Abolhassan Banisadr (1980-81), set aside and fled the country.

2nd president – Mohammad Ali Rajaie (1981), assassinated.

3rd president – Ali Khamenei (1981-89), was fortunate and became the Supreme Leader.

4th president – Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97), banished from the ruling elite and disqualified in the 2013 presidential election race.

5th president – Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), has been literally banished and even the publication of his picture in Iranian media is currently banned.

6th president – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13), considered a deviant and disqualified from taking part in the 2017 presidential election.

Mohammad Amin (@EconomieIran) is a senior research fellow for the Paris-based Fondation d’Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient (FEMO) or Foundation for the Study of the Middle East. He has written several books and essays about the ruling theocracy, the transformation of Iran’s political economy under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.

The Guardian Council, a very powerful and influential body in Iran’s theocracy, voted on Thursday to disqualify Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the regime’s president from 2005 to 2013, announcing he lacks the necessary standards to take part as a candidate in the May 19 presidential election.

 

This council, consisting of six senior mullahs appointed directly by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, stamps approval to the parliament’s bills and vets all election candidates.

Based on the decision of this council, the candidates able to take part in the May 19 polls are: the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, current Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former head of Iran’s Physical Education Organization Hashemitaba, Ebrahim Raisi, a mullah involved in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, former industry ministry Mostafa Mirsalim and Tehran’s current mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf.

Ahmadinejad’s disqualification was not unexpected. Last September Khamenei used a public speech to ban him from announcing his candidacy. However, last week he officially registered as a presidential candidate. The mullahs’ main problem was not the fact that Ahmadinejad discredited the Supreme Leader. He also took a step in contrast to measures aimed at “engineering the elections.”

This is a common term used in theocratic elections, meaning centralized control over all presidential election phases to have the Supreme Leader’s considered candidate come out victorious.

Despite being a headache and a thorn in Khamenei’s back, Ahmadinejad still remains a member of the ruling faction. If he had surpassed this phase, he would be able to gain the support of the Supreme Leader’s faction and decrease Raisi’s chances of becoming president.

To this end, the elimination of Ahmadinejad prevents the fragmentation of Khamenei’s faction and prevents such a development ending in Rouhani’s favor. Mirsalim and Hashemitaba lack any significance in the upcoming election. Forecasts show Ghalibaf and Jahangiri will also step aside in favor of their allies. As a result, the election “war” in this theocracy will be between Rouhani and Raisi.

Despite the election results, Ahmadinejad joined the ranks most other presidents in the Iranian regime’s history.

1st president – Abolhassan Banisadr (1980-81), set aside and fled the country.

2nd president – Mohammad Ali Rajaie (1981), assassinated.

3rd president – Ali Khamenei (1981-89), was fortunate and became the Supreme Leader.

4th president – Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97), banished from the ruling elite and disqualified in the 2013 presidential election race.

5th president – Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), has been literally banished and even the publication of his picture in Iranian media is currently banned.

6th president – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13), considered a deviant and disqualified from taking part in the 2017 presidential election.

Mohammad Amin (@EconomieIran) is a senior research fellow for the Paris-based Fondation d’Etudes pour le Moyen-Orient (FEMO) or Foundation for the Study of the Middle East. He has written several books and essays about the ruling theocracy, the transformation of Iran’s political economy under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.



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Ahmadinejad: Iran’s Gorbachev


With such a history, Ahmadinejad registering his candidacy for the May 19 presidential election rendered many headaches amongst the regime’s senior ranks. This was in complete insubordination, if you will, to orders issued by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who on December 26 publicly called on Ahmadinejad to refrain from participating in these polls.

The emergence of Ahmadinejad was also a major element in disrupting any hope for unity amongst the ruling theocratic faction to rally behind a single candidate in this election.

A look at the history of this faction is necessary to gain a better understanding of the new developments’ importance.

Firstly, there are no such entities as “political parties” in today’s Iran. Due to the intense theocracy imposed on the Iranian population, and the closed nature of this religious dictatorship, the ruling regime in Tehran even lacks any farcical political parties.

However, on the verge of each “election” (being a rivalry between current and former security and intelligence officials), small groups describing themselves as fronts, coalitions or associations, form around senior officials. The lower files are all members of the regime’s security apparatus or Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) commanders.

In 2005 Khamenei used the IRGC leverage to organize, or engineer, the presidential election to have a previously unknown individual, Ahmadinejad, selected as president. Around a dozen sporadic groups of Khamenei’s camp rallied behind his candidate and naming their alliance the Osul-Garayan, more commonly known as the ‘principalists.’

During his first term, Ahmadinejad’s relationship with Khamenei could be described as a puppet with his master.

Following the 2009 uprisings, however, Ahmadinejad realized how Khamenei’s position had significantly weakened and thus demanded more authority, seeking specifically to sack his minister of intelligence (a post traditionally appointed by the Supreme Leader no matter who the president is).

When his request was turned down, Ahmadinejad remained at home for 11 days (April 23 – May 4, 2011) and literally refused to show up for work at the presidential compound.

This turn of events spelled the end of any hope of unity amongst the ‘principalists’ and as a result, the Khamenei camp was unable to agree on a single candidate for the 2013 presidential election. To this end, Hassan Rouhani became president.

Four years later, as instructed by Khamenei, groups in his camp formed a new alliance dubbed the Popular Front of Islamic Revolutionary Forces, or Jamna, as known inside Iran. The intention was to rally behind the candidacy of a hardline cleric by the name of Ebrahim Raisi to prove he enjoys the necessary legitimacy inside the regime’s establishment.

However, after Raisi announced his candidacy these groups and individuals turned their back and refused to express any support for the so-called Jamna coalition.

Saeed Jalili, the former leading nuclear negotiator, enjoying the support of a group known as the “Perseverance Front,” went silent and refused any support.

Members of the ‘Motalefe Party’ (comprised of a group of pro-Khamenei bazaar merchants who for years were in charge of torture chambers in Tehran and Karaj, east of the capital) went their own way and placed forward their own independent candidate.

Another group by the name of ‘Rahpuyan’, consisting of plainclothes agents known for their role in attacking protesters and demonstrators, also announced their own candidate.

Finally, Ahmadinejad hammered the final nail in the coffin by registering his candidacy. The ruling faction can confidently be described as fragmented yet again.

Of course, this series of events cannot impact the election outcome that Khamenei has blueprinted. As always, he will be using the IRGC and resorting to widespread vote fraud to have his desired candidate selected as president.

However, what has taken place in Iran’s elections politics unveiled a fundamentalist weakness in this theocracy: Khamenei is facing major crises resulting from the deep fragmentation amongst the ruling minority. This is one of the most important reasons why he is considering Raisi, an individual with no record in political activities, as his establishment’s next president. In fact, has for the 20 years Raisi been actively involved in sending people to the gallows and was one of the highest ranking regime officials involved in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners.

 

Mohammad Amin is an analyst in Iranian affairs and fellow at the Paris-based Middle East Research Foundation. He tweets at @economieIran

 



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