CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts - I am a political scientist not a lawyer but after 8 grueling years of self representing in a civil conspiracy case against Harvard University all the way to the US Supreme Court, I have learnt how to separate hearsay from scentilla of evidence from hard evidence, which is what is needed, and plenty of that, in order to overturn a national, tightly monitored elections.
Unfortunately, despite natural sympathy for the reformist movement in Iran, as someone who worked closely with former president Mohammad Khatami's Dialogue Among Civilizations, I am inclined to dismiss Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi's allegation of rigged elections, simply because he has not carried the burden of proffering solid evidence.
First, speak of irregularities. On June 12, at 11 pm one hour after the closure of voting stations Mr. Mousavi held a press conference and declared himself "the definite winner" citing "received information throughout the country." Of course, no one conducted any exit polls and the Mousavi camp that has been complaining about the breakdown on communication because of textmessaging shutdown and the like, has some explaining to do why their candidate prematurely declared himself the winner, when the incremental results from the election officials, posted every couple of hours on the website of Interior Ministry that night, consistently put Ahmadinejad ahead (just as various polls had predicted including one by a Washington-based Terror-Free-Tomorrow)?
Second, since then both Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard in her interview with BBC, have passed off unreliable hearsay about what they heard from their supporters in the provinces as reliable evidence. That simply doesn't wash.
Third, Mousavi's campaign aide, filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, has claimed that Mousavi had received an official call congratulating him for being the winner. That could have been, from the HQ of Tehran's election organization, since Mousavi won the votes in Tehran, with a solid majority vote. Could it be that Mousavi self-servingly misinterpreted that as the news that he had won the national election? Well, only time will tell.
What's beyond dispute, however, is that Mousavi's official complaint to the overseeing Council of Guardians is thin on specifics and is peppered with allegations of pre-election improprieties, which do not substantiate his rigged elections wild claim. A deconstruction of this two page document sheds much light on the fundamental weakness of Mousavi's case for new elections:
Item 1: It has nothing to do with the voting process and is exclusively concerned about the television debates and Ahmadinejad's blunt statements about some regime dignitaries accusing them of corruption and nepotism;
Item 2: Again, deals exclusively with issues raised in the debates, accusing Ahmadinejad of insulting the late ayatollah Khomeini and endangering national security by revealing some state secrets;
Item 3: complaint that some representatives of Mr. Mousavi and the other candidates were not accredited by the Interior Ministry and were as a result unable to monitor the voting. The problem with this is that in and of itself this does not prove a fraud, and missing here is any reference to the thousands of "independent monitors" selected by the candidates who were accredited and were on site at various voting centers throughout the country. Truly, if Mousavi had a legitimate complaint he would have backed his complaint with an appendix documenting his observers' allegations. Yet, throught the complaint there is not one reference to such specific observations.
Item 4: It accuses the Interior Ministry of not hand counting all the votes and declaring the results "while some centers were still counting the votes." This is certainly a cause for concern, but then again, in light of the fact that some of those centers were in Tehran, where Mousavi got the majority of votes, discounts the possibility of fraud, especially a major faud involving a minimum ten million votes, that gave Ahmadinejad the edge over Mousavi.
Item 5: It claims that hundreds of voting centers had insufficient election forms and in some cases there were "a few hours delay." This again is not a proof of fraud in a high turn out election that brought out some 40 million voters. A counter-point is that so many centers extended their hours to accommodate the long lines of voters. Also, it claims that in some places the actual tally was higher than the registered voters. What is missing here is the pertinent fact that in some of those places, such as Yazd, Mousavi was the winner -- does this mean that we should now accuse Mr. Mousavi of voter fraud?!
Item 6: It states: "In addition to the above violations, on the day of voting, I wrote more than 80 letters to Mr. Kadkhodai the speaker of Council of Guardian." There is no mention of the content of those letters, and clearly the purpose here is to convey the impression of being in possession of more evidence than proffered in this complaint, as if washes with the elections laws and their stringent requirement of documenting all the evidence of voting violations in one complaint to the Council.
Item 7: It states: "Mr. Ahmadinejad during his excess time with the state radio and television that was illegally alloted to him predicted counter-secruity activities and implicitly claimed victory and accused his rivals of conspiracy. Accordingly, the headline news of Raja News, IRNA and Fars, as well as that of Kayhan newspaper, predicted his victory a few hours prior to the finish of voting." Actually, it was Mr. Mousavi himself who one hour after the closure of voting declared himself "the definitive winner" and there was nothing implicit about that. Again, this has nothing to do with what is demanded of Mr. Mousavi in terms of hard evidence to prove a fraudulent elections.
Item 8: Here, Mousavi's complaint accuses Mr. Ahmadinejad of violating the laws prohibiting the political involvement of the country's armed forces and militias (basiji). This is a serious allegation, but not germane to the complaint of voter fraud. Besides, Mousavi himself is guilty of the same tort, given the fact that his own election headquarters had a division for mobilization of basijis!
In conclusion, it appears that Mousavi, the war time politician, has taken a page or two from that era's "war of maneuver" that, I hasten to add, sent thousands of young Iranians to Iraqi killing fields. But, politics is not a zero-sum extension of war by other means and Mr. Mousavi should respect the will of majority of Iranians who re-elected president Ahmadinejad, instead of continuing with his ill-founded allegations that have marred a uniquely open and competitive race simply because it yielded the 'wrong winner' who is antithetical to western, and Israeli, interests.
- Iran's disputed election - 17 June 09 - Part 1
Riz Khan - Iran's disputed election - 17 June 09 - Part 2