Friday, June 17, 2005

First Reports on the Election - Why the media is getting it wrong

The western media is reporting a close election in Iran and some are claiming that it is so close that the government has extended the hours of the polling places in order to accommodate the voting public.

What is wrong with these reports?

According to various news accounts, the international media in Iran for the election is estimated between 70 and 200 foreign journalists. Opposition leaders claim that each journalist is required to have a government minder present with them. They also report that these journalists do not have the freedom to visit anywhere they choose. So the international media is reporting from government designated polling places.

In previous elections, there have been news reports that the government deliberately made the number of polling places in the neighborhood so small that it creates larger crowds, creating a photo opportunity for the journalists.

In other cases the regime has also been reported to have bus loads of people with fake ids traveling from location to location to increase the size of the turnouts at these photo-op polling places. This is believed to be case today.

I was told that NITV reported this morning that a Belgian journalist had a confrontation with Iranian authorities when the journalist was refused a request to visit other polling independently but that the government had not authorized in advance.

Perhaps more importantly, the Iranian government, in an attempt to frame the election coverage in ways that promote their ends, reported earlier today saying that 14,000,000 voters had already cast ballots (approx. 30%of the voting public), according to a CNN broadcast report. These same reports claim that the race is close and Rafsanjani is in the lead.

But if you notice the Iranian people use paper ballots. They are placed in secured ballot boxes and have yet to be hand counted. These ballots have yet to be counted. It is therefore impossible for the government to provide the statistics they are claiming. Exit polling is useless since the people of Iran are unlikely to report honestly how they voted for fear of reprisals.

This is nothing new in Iran. In past elections they have at times reported more ballots cast than there are voters in many districts.

An Iranian opposition leader told me that while watching official Iranian TV reports on the election, they showed people going out to the polls in large numbers, but then they noticed a banner in the video clip was referring to the last Presidential election, not today's. I was also told that another video report used video from the past parliamentary election. If the turnout was as is being reported they would have no reason to use old footage.

So what is the truth? Observers in Iran claim in most areas the voter turnout has been much lower than past elections. But it will take some time to have a better idea on what the turnout was in actuality.

I apologize that I have not been able to links yet to this report. Be patient. More reports will be coming soon.

The following is one example of a normally busy street in Iran. (courtesy of and IranFocus)