Western media, along with thousands of Iranians protesting around the world, have formed a rough consensus over the six days since Iran’s presidential election that Ahmadinejad’s victory was the result of widespread fraud. However, a recent op-ed in the Washington Post references a rare public opinion poll in suggesting that the election may indeed have been fair. While there is not enough information to determine whether or not the election was rigged, this poll certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility. If only because the poll’s authors concluded prior to the election that the very same data predicted a relatively close vote. Yet today, those same authors are claiming that their figures demonstrate the validity of Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory.
Does US poll rule out fraud in Iran?
JESSE FREESTON, TRNN: In the days following Iran’s controversial presidential election, a loose consensus has developed among much of the world’s English-language media that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies stole the election in an act of widespread fraud. Investigative journalist Robert Parry, who gained fame for his work uncovering the Iran Contra scandal in the 1980s, pointed out the irony in this enthusiasm: “It also has been curious to see US news organizations care suddenly about legitimate elections when most of them ignored, ridiculed, or covered-up evidence that George W. Bush stole the US presidential election in 2000 and possibly in 2004 as well,” adding that “Iran’s religious leaders now have ordered an investigation of the fraud. . . . That is more than Americans got in 2000 and 2004.” This announced investigation has done very little to calm the unrest in Iran, as droves of supporters of both presidential candidates continue to fill the streets. On Wednesday, former interior minister and current member of the Iran’s election oversight committee, Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Pur announced that over 70 polling stations have recorded more votes than eligible voters, including one station in which 140 percent of eligible voters have voted. It should be noted, however, that Mohtashami is a supporter of the defeated Mousavi. An op-ed published on Monday by The Washington Post has caused many media outlets to question their support for the fraud theory. The piece was written by Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, directors of a rare countrywide public opinion poll that was taken in Iran three weeks prior to the election. The poll was a joint project of the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow, a Washington-based think tank with powerful US politicians on its advisory board, many of which have publicly endorsed US military intervention in Iran, including former Senate majority leader Bill Frist and Senator John McCain. The authors of the op-ed claim that their polling results support Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory numbers, and their conclusions are now being quoted widely. However, when they first released the data only four days before the election, their conclusions were quite different, quote, “… it appears that none of the presidential candidates will pass the 50 percent threshold needed to automatically win,” thereby triggering a second-round runoff ballot, while Friday’s results gave Ahmadinejad almost two-thirds of the first-round votes. Furthermore, the report added that “A close examination of our survey results reveals that the race may actually be closer than a first look at the numbers would indicate.” This is due to the fact that a full 49 percent of the respondents were either undecided or refused to answer the question of which candidate they would vote for. Yet on questions regarding government policy, a strong majority appeared to reflect the values espoused by Mousavi, not Ahmadinejad. The poll clearly shows a strong Ahmadinejad lead, but contrary to the authors’ op-ed, it does not support the landslide first-round victory observed last Friday.
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