Additionally, it should be noted that, although there is a wide diversity of ethnic groups within Iranian society, most of them share a common history and Iranian identity. This is certainly the case within the Azeri community of Northwest Iran. We have been told for quite some time now that “public opinion polls suggest that foreign pressure to discontinue Iran’s nuclear program has contributed to a rise in patriotism because public support for the Iran’s nuclear program has been strong. Support for the program transcends political factions and ethnic groups.” Considering that Ahmadinejad’s four years of standing strong in the face of such aggressive and threatening foreign pressure has played well with the public, as opposed to Mousavi’s more conciliatory tone with regards to bettering relations with Western powers, it is hardly a stretch or a surprise that Ahmadinejad would be supported by such large swaths of the population across all demographics.
The voting habits of ethnic Lur voters in reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi’s home province are also assumed to be known by Western analysts. If he won five million votes in 2005, why did he only clear about 300,000 this time around? How could Ahmadinejad win in Tehran, when Mousavi’s base of upper and middle class cosmopolitan youths, university students, and wealthy business-owners reside there? Plus, Mousavi is said to have been popular in urban areas, where Ahmadinejad was seen as holding less sway. So how could Mousavi possibly lose? These questions are valid, for sure, but they have equally rational answers.
Karroubi wasn’t a contender in this race like he was four years ago. There was no incumbent president at that time (President Khatami had just completed his second term) and the candidate field was wide open. Karroubi had a pro-reform and pro-populist message that appealed to many unsure of whom to vote for. He did well in his hometown. But 2009 is not 2005. After four years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the rural Iranian voting bloc strongly supports his economic, domestic, and foreign policies. It is irresponsible to assume that Karroubi’s “reformist” support would turn heavily to Mousavi since Karroubi had no chance of winning this year. He has long been a staunch opponent of Iranian political stalwart and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is closely aligned with Mousavi. Karroubi’s populist approach to the economy is more like Ahmadinejad’s than Mousavi’s.
Esam Al-Amin, writing for Counterpunch, astutely observes,
The double standard applied by Western news agencies is striking. Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern in his native state of South Dakota in the 1972 elections. Had Al Gore won his home state of Tennessee in 2000, no one would have cared about a Florida recount, nor would there have been a Supreme Court case called Bush v. Gore. If Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards had won the states he was born and raised in (South and North Carolina), President John Kerry would now be serving his second term. But somehow, in Western newsrooms Middle Eastern people choose their candidates not on merit, but on the basis of their “tribe.”
The fact that minor candidates such as Karroubi would garner fewer votes than expected, even in their home regions as critics charge, is not out of the ordinary. Many voters reach the conclusion that they do not want to waste their votes when the contest is perceived to be between two major candidates. Karroubi indeed received far fewer votes this time around than he did in 2005, including in his hometown. Likewise, Ross Perot lost his home state of Texas to Bob Dole of Kansas in 1996, while in 2004, Ralph Nader received one eighth of the votes he had four years earlier.
Ahmadinejad didn’t win Tehran, even though this falsehood is repeated constantly in the Western press as evidence of vote tampering. He won Tehran province, yes, but not the metropolitan area. In Tehran proper, which has a total population of about 7.7 million, Mousavi received 2,166,245 votes, which is over 356,000 more than the incumbent Ahmadinejad. And in Shemiranat – the affluent and westernized Northern section of the greater Tehran area, abounding with shopping malls and luxury cars – Mousavi beat Ahmadinejad by almost a 2 to 1 margin, winning 200,931 votes to Ahmadinjead’s 102,433.
In fact, according to the official numbers, Ahmadinejad lost in most cities around the country, including Ardabil, Ardakan, Aqqala, Bandar Torkaman, Baneh, Bastak, Bukan, Chabahar, Dalaho, Ganaveh, Garmi, Iranshahr, Javanroud, Kalaleh, Khaf, Khamir, Khash, Konarak, Mahabad, Mako, Maraveh Tappeh, Marivan, Miandoab, Naghadeh, Nikshahr, Oshnavieh, Pars-Abad, Parsian, Paveh, Pilehsavar, Piranshahr, Qeshm, Ravansar, Shabestar, Sadooq, Salmas, Saqqez, Saravan, Sardasht, Showt, Sibsouran, Yazd, Zaboli, and Zahedan.
This deficit was more than made up for, however, in working class suburbs, small towns and rural areas. (Since the election, Ahmadinejad’s detractors have enjoyed flaunting the statistic that only 30% of Iranians live in the countryside, without realizing that the adjoining blue-collar neighborhoods and less affluent suburban sprawl of urban centers are not counted as “rural” areas.)
But weren’t the pre-election polls indicating an easy victory for Mousavi? No, they weren’t. An Iranian opinion poll from early May, conducted in Tehran as well as 29 other provincial capitals and 32 important cities, showed that “58.6% will cast their ballots in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while some 21.9% will vote for Mousavi.” Even though Western media likes to tell us that polling is notoriously difficult in Iran, there was plenty of pre-election data to analyze. Al-Amin writes,
More than thirty pre-election polls were conducted in Iran since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main opponent, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, announced their candidacies in early March 2009. The polls varied widely between the two opponents, but if one were to average their results, Ahmadinejad would still come out on top. However, some of the organizations sponsoring these polls, such as Iranian Labor News Agency and Tabnak, admit openly that they have been allies of Mousavi, the opposition, or the so-called reform movement. Their numbers were clearly tilted towards Mousavi and gave him an unrealistic advantage of over 30 per cent in some polls. If such biased polls were excluded, Ahmadinejad’s average over Mousavi would widen to about 21 points.
One poll conducted before the election by two US-based non-profit organizations forecast Ahmadinejad’s reelection with surprising prescience. The survey was jointly commissioned by the BBC and ABC News, funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and conducted by the New America Foundation‘s nonprofit Center for Public Opinion, which, “has a reputation of conducting accurate opinion polls, not only in Iran, but across the Muslim world since 2005.” The poll predicted an election day turnout of 89%, only slightly higher than the actual 85% who voted (that’s a difference of fewer than 2 million ballots). According to pollsters Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty, the “nationwide public opinion survey of Iranians three weeks before the vote showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin – greater than his actual apparent margin of victory in Friday’s election.”
Moreover, we hear incessantly about Iran’s all-important youth vote. According to many estimates, about 60% of Iran’s population is under 30 years old; however, what isn’t often reported is that almost a quarter of the population is actually under 15 years old. There are about 25 million Iranians between 15 and 29, which is about 36% of the population of the entire country. Voting age in Iran is 18. Additionally, Ballen and Doherty conclude,
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.