July 4, 2009
New questions about Iran’s election
Aspects of the Iran election remind me of a TV commercial for men’s pants. There are several variations but the basic storyline concerns some guy who is shown going through a variety of spills and disasters only to return home to the question: “Where have those pants been?”
While the pants are unscathed the guy appears disheveled and somewhat worse for the wear, the pants are free of stains and wrinkles. The sales pitch is that one should prefer pants that stay crisp and clean no matter what.
But what does the Dockers commercial have to do with the Iran election, you might wonder. The answer is simple — photos of paper ballots being recounted have been shown on Iranian TV. But the pictures just raise new questions about the integrity of Iran’s electoral process. The question that must be asked: “Where have these ballots been?”
The chain-of-custody of these ballots is murky, at best. They emerged in pristine crisp unfolded form just in time for the broadcast recount. There is no way to know whether they are actually the same ballots that were cast by voters on election day — or whether they have been “created” by a team of scribes within the Interior Ministry whose task was to stuff the ballot boxes for Ahmadinejad.
The suspicious ballot papers which appear to show the re-elected president’s name written in the same handwriting on many sheets.
Some have also claimed that the papers were suspiciously crisp and unfolded.
The images were shown as part of footage of a recount, broadcast on Iranian state television to supposedly assuage concern over the results
‘ These are images from the recent TV broadcast session where they ‘recounted’ some ballot boxes and found out that indeed Ahmadinejad’s votes were higher than previously counted,’ one commenter wrote on website The Huffington Post.
‘These pictures show two things very clearly: 1) that a whole lot of the ballots that are being recounted are fresh, crisp, unfolded sheets – which makes no sense, given that people typically had to fold these sheets before they can slip them into the ballot boxes, and 2) that the handwriting on so many of the sheets which are votes for ‘Ahmadinejad’ are the same handwriting (and very clearly so).’
The text highlighted in red appears to show Ahmadinejad’s name written in the same handwriting on a number of sheets
Critics also said the sheets displayed on television during the recount were remarkably unmarked and unfolded.
One of the underlying principles of election integrity is that a clear chain of custody must be established and verified throughout the election process. Because the Iranian electoral processs does not have adequate citizen oversight there is no way to verify that the ballot papers seen on TV are the ones marked by Iranians at the polling place on election day.
The Ministry of Interior is supervised and managed by the alleged “winning” candidate Ahmadinejad. Therefore, the Ministry of Interior is emphatically not a disinterested non-partisan agency but might have been acting under the direct orders of Ahmadinejad to ensure his “victory”.
In addition there is a pattern of suspicious behavior that suggests a coup by Ahmadinejad and his supporters:
- impossibly fast vote count and premature announcement of vote in contravention of existing law requiring no announcement for three days;
- rush to solidify Ahmadinejad’s position as purported “winner” by Supreme Leader Khameini;
- shutdown of cellphone and internet service just as election “results” were announced.
- harsh crackdown on political opponents, including arrests of prominent opposition figures
- virtual martial law imposed on peaceful demonstrators
Having paper ballots is not enough. The entire system needs to have clear, transparent oversight. The recent election contest in Minnesota is a textbook case of how to conduct open, transparent elections in the full glare of national scrutiny. Minnesota had a post-election audit, and a full hand recount followed by a painstaking election contest. There was never a need to wonder where the ballots had been since there was always a clear chain of custody.
In contrast with regard to Iran we are forced to wonder: “Where have these ballots been?”
These latest images of pristine unfolded ballot papers simply reinforce the mountain of circunstantial evidence that the the Iranian election was rigged. Who knows what shoe will drop next?
Note: further reading on the question of Iran’s partial recount can be found at these sites: