Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Red Iran, Blue Iran (False Iran, True Iran?)

We now have some supposedly "official" provincial election numbers from Iran, courtesy of Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, which means we can finally map the 2009 election. It was indeed - officially - a landslide:

Nate got the results on which this map is based from a student name Daniel Berman. The results are translated from Farsi, and supposedly represent the very much-disputed official results (the results that found Ahmadinejad defeating Mousavi even in Mousavi's home base of Eastern Azerbaijan). Here are the results broken down by province, with minor candidates omitted (Nate has detailed vote numbers). Provinces officially won by Mousavi are in bold:

Ardebil: Ahmadinejad 51% - Mousavi 47%
Boushehr: A 61 - M 36
Chaharmahal/Bakhtiari: A 73 - M 22
Eastern Azerbaijan: A 57 - M 42
Fars: A 70 - M 28
Ghazvin: A 73 - M 26
Ghom: A 72 - M 25
Gilan: A 68 - M 31
Golestan: A 60 - M 38
Hamedan: A 76 - M 22
Hormozgan: A 66 - M 33
Ilam: A 65 - M 31
Isfahan: A 69 - M 29
Kerman: A 78 - M 21
Kermanshah: A 59 - M 39
Khouzestan: A 65 - M 27
Kohgilouye/Boyerahmad: A 69 - M 27
Kordestan: A 53 - M 44
Lorestan: A 71 - M 23
Markazi: A 74 - M 24
Mazandaran: A 68 - M 21
Northern Khorasan: A 74 - M 25
Razavi Khorasan: A 70 - M 28
Semnan: A 78 - M 20
Sistan/Balouchestan: A 46 - M 52
Southern Khorasan: A 75 - M 24
Tehran: A 52 - M 46
Western Azerbaijan: A 47 - M 50
Yazd: A 56 - M 42
Zanjan: A 77 - M 22

This page has an Iranian province reference map, if you're curious. And Nate actually has his own map which represents the vote share on a continuous scale:

So now that we have these numbers, can we conclude that the election was a fraud? Well, as I said the other day, things are still hazy at this point and it's not really the time for definitive conclusions; but there is an awful lot of fishiness... Nate looks at the provincial votes and compares it to that 2005 election I was talking about; and he, having an actual proficiency in math and stuff, is able to do some statistical analysis of the correlations between the two votes. Here's his plot of Ahmadinejad's performance in that 2005 election against his performance in the currently disputed election (each diamond represents a province):

Says Nate:
These correlations are fairly weak, especially for the latter graph. Certainly not the kind of thing that will dissuade anyone who believes the election was tainted.

But, there are some important differences between the two races; in the first round in 2005, you had five candidates who were fairly competitive -- two conservatives, two reformists, and one (Rafsanjani) who is probably best considered a centrist (by Iranian standards). This time, you had only two candidates who received a competitive number of votes. And, obviously, Iran is a complicated and ever-changing place, with votes that may shift along ethnic fault lines in addition to political ones.
But Nate also points to a couple of specific discrepancies. In particular, conservative candidates collectively received about 20% of the vote in Lorestan in 2005, but Ahmadinejad won 71% of the vote this time around. Also, as I noted in that previous post on the portents of the 2005 election, Karroubi got more than 55% of the vote in Lorestan in 2005 (as he is an ethnic Lur and it's his home province). But in this election, with Karroubi still on the ballot, he supposedly only won 5% of the vote there. Could his vote really have cratered by 90%? And could those voters have almost universally moved to Ahmadinejad, rather than Mousavi? It scarcely seems possible, and this strikes me as one of the fishiest numbers in a whole school of them.

UPDATE: More numerical weirdnesses - one town had a turnout of 141%.


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