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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Did Obama rig the 2008 election?

I'm just as willing as anyone to believe that the Iranian election was rigged; and of course I condemn the brutal suppression of demonstrators in Tehran and other cities who think they were robbed of victory.

All I ask is some serious evidence that the election really was crooked, and I mean better evidence than has been making the rounds so far. For example, the normally sage Juan Cole doubts the election was on the level because people apparently did not vote along the ethnic lines he would have predicted; Cole also raises other indications that the election returns do not correspond to what would be expected according to the past behavior of people in various regions and cities.

Interestingly, however, Nate Silver, whose predictions about the U.S. primaries and general election turned out to be so accurate last year, questions some other "statistical" evidence making the rounds in Iran and elsewhere purporting to show the election was stolen.

Perhaps stronger evidence of fraud is out there, and will be forthcoming soon. Meanwhile, it does not make sense to me to base such conclusions on fuzzy assumptions about how people should have voted. By that standard, John McCain most certainly won the 2008 presidential election. I mean, come on, who can really believe that a Black guy named Barack Obama won Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Indiana, Virginia, Iowa, Washington state, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc? Clearly rigged, as we know how racist and right wing so many of the people in those states really are.

Of course, the current Iranian government may soon prove to its people that it does not deserve to be in power, and what is happening in the streets may ultimately turn out to be more important than what happened at the ballot box. But unfortunately, we may never really know what that was...

PS--Some people, including those who should know better, are putting a lot of stock in an obviously forged "letter" supposedly sent by Iran's Interior Minister to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Another contrarian view on Iran. In the Guardian, by Seumas Milne, who questions the evidence that the election was fraudulent and examines how it all fits into U.S. global strategy. A situation like this requires the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in one's head and to engage in subtle thinking: As brutal and intolerable as the government repression of the protests is, Western sympathizers should not automatically assume that the opposition represents the majority of Iranians. On the other hand, heavy-handed government actions may eventually tip that balance.

5 comments:

Anne Gilbert said...

Michael:

You might perhaps be interested in this opinion piece in the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/opinion/19shane.html?ref=opinion

This is written by a young Iranian who seems to know what is going on. He may be wrong, of course, but you have to consider that fact that, especially since the majority of Iran's population is under 30, my guess is that in the long run the course of things isn't going to run the way of Ahmedinejad and the old clerics. This, of course,doesn't "definitively" answer the question as to whether the current Iranian election results are fraudulent, but it's something to think about.
Anne G

Joanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna said...

Personally I'm agnostic about everything from the poll to the letter. The closest thing to a good argument for fraud I've heard was the time it took to count paper ballots. But it is very clear that something seriously angered a lot of people, and that they are not being treated correctly.

People ask why there wasn't rioting in the streets after Bush/Gore, but I think all the Gore supporters knew that the election should never have been run so poorly to end so close that a few cases of fraud could steal it, and were hanging their heads. They also had a weird mix of cynicism & confidence in the system and law, and didn't expect that which party was in power would matter so much as it does.

I think that a huge proportion of Iranians are quite certain that there was massive fraud, and that who is in power will affect the rest of their lives. They are well-educated, and they think these actions are worth the risk. I think we should show them some respect, even while admitting we do not know the truth.

By the way (to your headline), I really wish the US would follow & support the precedent established in many countries already of inviting foreign observers for all elections. The very lack of observation should make *any* election suspect.

Joanna said...

Read the Chatham House report http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/publications/papers/view/-/id/755/

Michael Balter said...

Indeed the NY Times is reporting today that the Iranians are admitting irregularities in the voting:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/world/middleeast/23iran.html?_r=1&hp

As I said, I am willing to believe the worst, but there still is no direct evidence that Ahmadinejad did not really win: There may be too many votes, and the voting may not have gone as some expected, but that is not actually evidence for what is being claimed. We really do need a smoking gun, otherwise we risk basing what we think are the facts on what we want them to be.