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Was Ahmadinejad’s Victory Legitimate?

June 16, 2009 1 comment

In the United States, there’s been a fair number of questions raised about the legitimacy of the recent presidential election in Iran. In some quarters, that the results were fraudulent was simply assumed. More reserved, the Obama administration has simply identified “doubts.” It’s worth noting, however, that there are at least some who find President Ahmadinejad’s victory, and more importantly his margin of victory, entirely within reason.

Yesterday, Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty wrote in the Washington Post that in their pre-election poll of Iran, Ahmadinejad’s support was actually higher then the reported vote total. Furthermore:

The breadth of Ahmadinejad’s support was apparent in our preelection survey. During the campaign, for instance, Mousavi emphasized his identity as an Azeri, the second-largest ethnic group in Iran after Persians, to woo Azeri voters. Our survey indicated, though, that Azeris favored Ahmadinejad by 2 to 1 over Mousavi.

Much commentary has portrayed Iranian youth and the Internet as harbingers of change in this election. But our poll found that only a third of Iranians even have access to the Internet, while 18-to-24-year-olds comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all age groups.

Over a Politico today, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett lash out at doubters in a piece pugnaciously entitled Ahmadinejad won. Get over it:

They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad’s 62.6 percent of the vote in this year’s election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The shock of the “Iran experts” over Friday’s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.

The truth of the matter is that there is at least a possibility that the results were legitimate, and it doesn’t matter. The perceived injustice, which has led to the massive protests not in the US, but on the streets of Iran, has rendered the actual vote count largely meaningless. Some have suggested that had the election not been “over-stolen“, that is to say, if the vote had been closer to 53-47 or even 55-45 than 60-40, that the now-rioting crowds would have simply taken defeat and gone on with their lives. There is a chance, however, the slightest chance that Ahmadinejad will go down as the only politician ever to win an election too comfortably for his own good. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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