Iranians casting their votes in the elections in Shabdolazim shrine, near the capital Tehran, March 1, 2024

What Do Official Statistics Reveal About Iran's Elections?

Monday, 03/04/2024

Authorities in Iran are evidently manipulating the vote count to secure a predetermined outcome of Friday’s parliamentary elections amidst a notably effective boycott campaign.

Turnout

The Guardian Council’s extensive disqualification of candidates prior to the March 1 parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections gave rise to huge popular discontent. Authorities resorted to relentless propaganda and various measures to ensure the boycott did not affect the turnout.

In the face of polls conducted by government agencies that predicted a very low turnout, state media and those controlled by hardliners, as well as hardline political parties and groups launched a massive campaign before the elections, to ensure high turnout.

The polls were inexplicably extended by six hours although citizen reports indicated that the polling stations were not busy at all even during the regular voting hours.

Voting regulations including requirement of birth certificates, which was necessary in all previous elections, were abolished and voters were allowed to use one of several other forms of IDs including passports. Ballot boxes were provided in many crowded public venues in addition to polling stations.

These measures, however, backfired and many social media users alleged they were only meant to facilitate fraudulent voting.

Not only anti-regime voters, but also many former regime insiders, including Reformists, abstained from voting.

Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi speaks during a press conference after the parliamentary elections in Tehran, Iran, March 4, 2024.

The Phenomenon of Void and Blank Votes

Authorities claim 41 percent of eligible voters participated in the elections. This figure, the lowest in the four-decade history of the Islamic Republic, seems to include the void and blank votes. The total number of votes and blank and void votes has not yet been announced.

Void and blank ballots were abnormally high in nearly every constituency. In some constituencies such as Yazd the number of blank and void ballots is higher than most of the constituency’s top elected representatives.

Blank and void votes are usually cast by those who may have been rounded up and forced to vote against their wish such as government employees, soldiers, and athletes, and could be interpreted as “protest votes”.

According to official figures the number of eligible voters has increased from 57.9 million four years ago to 61.1 million.

A newspaper with a cover picture of Speaker of the Parliament of Iran Mohamed Bagher Ghalibaf, is seen in Tehran, Iran March 3, 2024.

Suspicions of Revolutionary Guards Role in Engineering Results

Given the low turnout, the election headquarters of the interior ministry, has been taking their time, despite claims of employing better technology such as computers, to manipulate the numbers, critics say.

After the closure of the polls, the media affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, including Fars News Agency, announced what they claimed was the turnout figures before the election authorities had provided any information.

Such moves exacerbated suspicions of involvement of the Revolutionary Guards in election engineering and manipulation of numbers. The interior ministry, the principal election authority, only announced partial turnout figures two days later.

The opaque vote count process, coupled with the slow and irregular announcement of results, bears a striking resemblance to the parliamentary elections of 2004, which reformists alleged were engineered by the Khamenei-appointed Guardian Council.

In the presidential elections of 2009, the interior ministry was accused of joining forces with the Guardian Council to ensure the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In both cases, the Revolutionary Guards was accused of masterminding the manipulation of the vote.

Dubious Mandate for Those Elected

The very low number of votes cast in nearly every constituency, notwithstanding the doubts about the accuracy of the figures announced officially, casts doubt on the mandate of those who will be representing constituencies in the parliament.

In many constituencies run-off elections are required and many of those who have secured their seats in the parliament in the first round have only managed to get a fraction of the votes of those eligible in their constituencies.

In the capital Tehran, which has 30 seats and over 7.5 million eligible voters, for instance, the front-runner candidate Mahmoud Nabavian is the only one with over 500,000 votes. The other 13 elected candidates in this round have acquired between 316,000 and 487,000 votes and the remaining 16 will be chosen in the run-off.

Nabavian’s 597,000 votes suggest he will be representing less than 8 percent of the eligible voters. In another constituency – Tabriz, Azarshahr and Oskou – the top elected lawmaker’s votes fall below 100,000, making him the representative of less than 10 percent of the eligible voters.

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