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Iran Presidential Election Result Examined

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

More now on the disputed Iranian election. Joining us from New York is Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Welcome to the program once again.

Mr. KARIM SADJADPOUR (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): Thank you, Robert, pleasure to be here.

SIEGEL: You have called this a stolen election. Here's what the Mideast analysts Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett wrote yesterday in Political. They write, without any evidence, many U.S. politicians and Iran experts have dismissed Ahmadinejad's reelection on Friday with 62.6 percent of the vote as fraud. And they point out that he won about the same share of the vote as he did in the final count in 2005. What's the evidence of fraud here?

Mr. SADJADPOUR: I think there are several examples of fraud, Robert. First of all, these votes in Iran are hand counted, and 40 million people voted. Yet, before the polls even closed, the official state media had announced that President Ahmadinejad was the victor. The opposition camp, Mir Hossein Mousavi and other candidates had asked for election monitors. They were forbidden to have election monitors.

I think there are some egregious examples among the numbers, which show things which historically have been highly inaccurate. One phenomena is that the native son in Iranian politics oftentimes does very well in their home province. Mir Hossein Mousavi, for example, is an ethnic Azeri from Iranian Azerbaijan, and when he campaigned there, he was received like a rock star. He had tens of thousands in the crowd, and again, historically, the Azeri candidate does very well in his home province of Azerbaijan.

SIEGEL: Here's what the Leveretts write about that. They say, Ahmadinejad himself speaks Azeri quite fluently as a - I'm quoting now, "as a consequence of his eight years serving as a popular and successful official in two Azeri majority provinces." And that during the campaign he artfully quoted Azeri and Turkish poetry in the original - that, in fact, he did rather well there.

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Well, I would disagree with Flynt and Hillary. First of all, they have not set foot in Iran. They don't speak Persian or Azeri. I would dispute the claim that Ahmadinejad speaks fluent Azeri. I would dispute the claim that he was a popular governor there. In fact, he was overwhelmingly perceived as an unpopular governor - and he was trounced in 2005 in Iranian Azerbaijan.

And what I say, this, Robert, is that it's almost akin to saying that - almost akin to thinking that Barack Obama could lose the African-American vote to John McCain. It simply doesn't stand up to reason. There was another example, as well, in central Iran, in lower Isfahan(ph) province - where the natives found (unintelligible) Karavi(ph), who has run there in 2005 and had done extremely well in lower Isfahan. This time he polled in single digits and Ahmadinejad beats him, I think, by around 60, 70 percentage points.

There was a lot of factors that when you put them together, the fact that there are no monitors allowed, the fact that the polls had - that the results had - were announced before the polls had even closed. There were numerous factors to show that this election was conducted under a cloud of improprieties.

SIEGEL: Of course, Mousavi also declared victory before the polls closed, so that he wasn't waiting for the official result either.

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Well, I think that Mousavi's reaction was a reaction to what Ahmadinejad's camp had done. And another thing we have to remember, Robert, is that these elections in Iran, the fairness of these elections are overseen by the Ministry of the Interior. The head of the Ministry of Interior is directly appointed by President Ahmadinejad - was directly appointed by Ahmadinejad.

And the government entity which oversees the work, the fairness of the Ministry of Interior is the Guardian Council. And the head of the Guardian Council had publicly endorsed Ahmadinejad before the election. So already before the campaign, the votes even started, the opposition were fearful that they would have to have at least five more million votes to overcome any main proprietaries. And it seems they even did have that. The perception is that they had even overcome those five million votes.

But there's widespread allegations that these votes weren't even counted - that, you know, how can you count - hand count 40 million votes before these polls have even closed?

SIEGEL: And just briefly, as for the prospect of a recount, or a recount of some ballots, do you court(ph) that any credible at all or zero?

Mr. SADJADPOUR: Well, at the moment the - what's taking place now is that Ayatollah Khamenei has deferred to the Guardian Council, and the Guardian Council is an entity of 12 individuals who are essentially under his authority. So I think this was much more of a tactical move, than it was a genuine move to probe the votes. He wants to buy time and hope that the crowds will quell a little bit.

But at some point, Robert, Ayatollah Khamenei may have to make the decision whether to sacrifice Ahmadinejad or sacrifice himself.

SIEGEL: Karim Sadjadpour, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. SADJADPOUR: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Karim Sadjadpour in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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