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The Widening Divide Among Iran's Clerics

02 Jul 2009 12:049 Comments

The rift in the clerical establishment

By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 30 June 2009

As the Iranian government crisis enters its 19th day, fissures among the clerics are gradually becoming deeper and more visible. These differences between hard-liners and leftists go back to 1988, but what has been surprising is the reaction of moderate clerics and the silence of clerical hard-liners.

The importance of the emerging fissures in the ranks of the clerics is not that the leftist clerics are supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi in his confrontation with the hard-liners, but that the fissures are developing even among the ranks of the conservative ayatollahs and influential clerics who were usually supportive of Ayatollah Khamenei -- or at least silent in order to present a seemingly united front against the leftist faction, as well as the reformist and democratic groups.

The clerics in Qom and Mashhad recognize that there is much more at stake than a disputed election. They see an existential threat to the entire Islamic Republic as they mull their decision whether to support the official result, protest it or continue to remain silent.

The clerics who support the unification of church and state -- those who support the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih [the governance of the Islamic jurist, the Supreme Leader or the Faghih], the backbone of Iran's power structure -- see that by coming down most definitively on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's side, Ayatollah Khamenei may no longer be considered to be above the fray, or even feign impartiality. He has now become just another politician subject to criticism. This is damaging, not only to the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih, but also to the whole concept of Mahdi, the hidden 12th Imam, who is supposed to come back some day to save the world from injustice, corruption and chaos. How can the "deputy" of the hidden Imam be as fallible as the next politician?

In the view of many in the clerical class, Ayatollah Khamenei's actions have been problematic, especially his response to the huge demonstrations that took place to protest the rigged election:

1) He did not wait for the Guardian Council to officially certify the election results; he very quickly declared them valid.

2) He said the 85% turnout indicated how politically mature the population was and showed how satisfied they were with the political system. (He failed to note that the same politically mature and "satisfied" population staged huge demonstrations protesting the votes and the government that he supports). This hard-line position of his effectively quashed the most famous quote by Ayatollah Khomeini, Mizaan ra'ye mardom ast [the true measure of (acceptance) is people's vote].

3) He emphasized the rule of law, while neglecting all the violations of the same law by Ahmadinejad's government and supporters. (All of these have been eloquently described and enumerated by Mousavi in his statements.)

4) He "recommended" that Mousavi pursue his complaints through the Guardian Council [the Constitutional body that vets the candidates and certifies the validity of the elections], while declaring at the same time that the election was valid, hence leaving little room for the Council to change the election results, even if it wanted to by finding enough evidence of fraud to declare the election invalid.

5) He threatened that if people were to demonstrate, any bloodshed and violence would be their own fault -- the fault of unarmed demonstrators pitted against heavily armed security forces -- and their leaders, Mousavi and Karroubi.

Since the incompetence of the Ahmadinejad administration, at least when it comes to managing the economy and certain aspects of foreign policy, is beyond dispute, by supporting the current president, Ayatollah Khamenei essentially declared his belief in Ahmadinejad-ism. Indeed, in his sermon on July 19, he declared that Ahmadinejad's views are closer to his own than those of others, and that certain people [meaning Ahmadinejad], in his opinion, are more suited to serve the country.

And, of course, those clerics who are opposed to the concept of Valaayat-e Faghih and believe that the ayatollahs must not intervene in politics (other than being spiritual guides), such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq and his large following in Iran, or those who believe that the Supreme Leader has been granted too much power and must be brought under control, such as Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, have found Ayatollah Khamenei's actions to be solid reasons for the validity of their arguments.

Clerical reformers against Ayatollah Khamenei:

Tehran Bureau has already reported on the protests of several senior ayatollahs against the rigged election and its aftermath (read: "Grand Ayatollah Declares Three Days of National Mourning"). Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of two most important marja' taghlids [source of emulation] in Shiite Islam, strongly attacked the government, rejected the results of the rigged election, and called on people to continue their protests peacefully. This was not the first time Montazeri has criticized Iran's government.

In 1997, shortly after President Khatami's landslide victory, Montazeri made a famous speech on Velaayat-e Faghih, in which he courageously criticized Ayatollah Khamenei by saying that the Supreme Leader should not intervene in the affairs of the state and leave them to the president. Likening many of the Friday prayer imams in the Islamic Republic to Aakhoond Darbaari [a pre-Revolution phrase referring to clerics on the Shah's payroll], he warned people not to confuse them with genuine religious leaders. [Watch the speech on YouTube.]

Ayatollah Sayyed Jalaloddin Taheri, an important reformist cleric who had been appointed the leader of the Friday prayers in the city of Isfahan by Ayatollah Khomeini right after the 1979 Revolution, has declared the election fraudulent, and the next Ahmadinejad term as illegitimate and tantamount to thievery. Taheri resigned as the leader of Friday prayers in Isfahan in 2002, protesting, in a highly publicized letter, what he called the terrible state of the nation. His letter provoked a direct rebuttal from Ayatollah Khamenei himself. Ayatollah Taheri strongly supported Mousavi in the presidential election.

In his statement, Taheri said he was witnessing "how the old enemies of Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] who opposed the establishment of the Islamic Republic are now presenting themselves as the ideologues of the Revolution."

"Did Imam believe that those who must be neutral in the election publicly support a particular candidate [Ahmadinejad]?" Taheri asked. "Did Imam allow the use of public resources for a particular candidate? Has religion given [the hard-liners] the permission [to do what they have done]? Why is it that the law is only supportive of you [referring to Ayatollah Khamenei's contention that the law must be implemented, and that the public protests are illegal]?"

Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, a senior member of the Association of Militant Clerics (AMC), has urged Mousavi to resist the official election result, so "insulting people and disrespecting the laws would not become the norm in the country."

The AMC backed Mousavi in the recent election. Ayatollah Zanjani warned the Judiciary that if it cannot address the rightful complaints of the people, they will seek out alternative ways to recover their rights."God forbid, the final destination of which will be chaos, insecurity and insulting religion," he said. He went on to declare that, "peaceful gathering and demonstrations are people's rights, which have been recognized by [article 27 of] the Constitution." He also accused the government of deviating from Ayatollah Khomeini's "path and thoughts."

Ayatollah Sayyed Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, who was Chief Prosecutor under Ayatollah Khomeini, strongly attacked the government for its mishandling of the election. In an interview with a pro-Ahmadinejad Web site, he declared that the Guardian Council was biased and that people have a right to demonstrate.

"Ask me about the law," Tabrizi said when he was reminded that Ayatollah Khamenei had forbidden further demonstrations. "I have nothing to do with them [the Supreme Leader and his supporters]. The Leader has expressed his own opinion, but I am talking about the law.

"The [1979] Revolution also occurred due to such talks [by the government]. The Shah also called the [demonstrating] people rioters. It was due to such reasons that the Shah's regime was illegitimate. If it had not talked that way [calling people rioters] and had given the people their rights, it would not have become illegitimate. It does not make any difference who denies the people their rights. Whoever does that is illegitimate."

He then mocked the fact that the number of votes cast in Ray (a town in the southern part of Tehran) was twice the number of eligible voters there.

Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, another close and senior aid to Ayatollah Khomeini, declared, "force should not be used to quell people's protests. You [the government] must listen to people and their protests against the election. Let the people express their opinions. The response to [the protests by] the people must be convincing to them."

Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Khomeini, declared that Ahmadinejad was not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, were haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means were also haraam.

Hadi Ghaffari, a mid-rank cleric, strongly criticized Ayatollah Khamenei in a recent speech. His father was also an ayatollah killed by the Shah's government, and he himself was jailed for many years before the 1979 Revolution. In the early years of the Revolution he was a hard-liner, but gradually changed his position; he has been strongly supportive of the reformists for many years. He was incredibly brazen in his criticisms of Ayatollah Khamenei. An audiotape of his speech was leaked and posted on YouTube, but has apparently been removed.

Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpayegani, who was the first Secretary-General of the Guardian Council after the Revolution, met with some members of the Council and expressed regrets for what had happened.

"I have some important things to say, but cannot for now," he told the Council's members. Part of the meeting was in secret, but he said in the public part of the meeting that, "We should have acted in a way that these issues would not have come up. We should have moderated our positions and opinions."

Ayatollah Safi Golpayegani also held a secret meeting with Grand Ayatollah Mousa Shobeiri Zanjani, and reviewed the latest developments; little about their meeting has been publicized.

Clerical supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei:

To be sure, Ayatollah Khamenei still has many supporters among the conservative clergy. When he was appointed the Supreme Leader in June 1989, Ayatollah Khamenei was neither an ayatollah nor a marja' taghlid [source of emulation]; under the Constitution, the Supreme Leader had to be both. So, not only was the Constitution revised in order to allow Ayatollah Khamenei to become the Supreme Leader, but he also needed the support of the senior clerics to be elevated to those ranks.

Those who supported Ayatollah Khamenei were mostly the conservative and ultra-conservative clerics. Their support of him was instrumental in his transformation from a progressive with an appreciation for the arts and literature, and even playing the taar -- a fretted lute with six strings -- into the conservative cleric he has become.

The senior clerics who support Ayatollah Khamenei today are those who have held, or currently hold, key positions in the government. They include Ahmad Jannati, Secretary-General of the Guardian Council; Mohammad Yazdi, former Judiciary chief; Khazali, former member of the Guardian Council; Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani, head of the Supreme Court, who ordered the execution of two of his own children in 1981; Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the Judiciary chief; Mohammad Mohammadi Rayshahri, former Minister of Intelligence whose real last name is Mohammadi-Nik; Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, head of the ACC and former Prime Minister; Ebrahimi Amini, leader of Friday prayers of Qom; Mohammad Emami Kashani, Tehran's temporary leader of Friday prayers; Hossein Nouri Hamadani, a hard-line instructor in Qom's seminary; and Masih Mohajeri, editor-in-chief of the Islamic Republic, a daily that was founded by Ayatollah Khamenei himself. These are mostly senior figures among the clerics, many of them over 60 years old, with Jannati and Mahdavi Kani being the most influential among them.

There are also mid-rank, middle age clerics, such as Ghorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, the Attorney General and former Intelligence Minister; Mostafa Pourmohammadi, former Interior and Intelligence Minister, who has been implicated in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the summer of 1988; Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehei, Intelligence Minister; Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, former Speaker of the Majles and head of the Supreme Leader's Office of Inspection; Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts (no relation to former president Mohammad Khatami); Ali Razini, senior figure in the Judiciary, also implicated in the executions of the summer of 1988; Ebrahim Raeisi, implicated in the summer 1988 executions, and chief deputy to Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, the Judiciary chief; Ruhollah Hosseinian, a Majles deputy and head of Center for Islamic Revolution Documents; Ali Fallahian, a Majles deputy and former Intelligence Minister; and others.

Grand Ayatollah Naser Makaaren Shirazi, who has often supported the conservatives in the past, emphasized that the difficulties should be overcome wisely, rationally, and with attention to the future of the political system.

"The action to be taken must not leave any fire under the surface ash, and must transform pessimism to optimism and competition to friendship and cooperation between all the [political] groups," Shirazi said.

It is interesting to note that Ayatollah Makaarem Shirazi was one of the earliest opponents of the Velaayat-e Faghih concept. He changed his mind, however, after reportedly being offered significant aid for his seminary. But, given the events in the country and Ahmadinejad's track record, he has also felt the danger and has been increasingly speaking of the "independence of Qom's theological schools" from the government.

"The basis for everything is the law," declared Grand Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli -- uncle of Ali Larijani, the Majles Speaker -- in a speech during the Friday prayers in Qom on June 26. "But, the person who is supposed to execute the law declares that, 'what I do is exactly according to the law,' and it is him who decides what is lawful. This is problematic," he said, hence seemingly referring to Ayatollah Khamenei and/or Ahmadinejad. He continued his thinly disguised criticism of the hard-liners by saying, "We must preserve religion, the howzah [the seminaries], and the maja'eeyat [the concept of emulation]. If any difference arises, these must be protected," he said, warning that the hard-liners risk destroying the entire basis of Iran's government by cracking down on protesters.

Even Ayatollah Mohyyodin Haeri-Shirazi, an ultra-conservative who is a member of the Assembly of Experts, wrote a highly cryptic and complex letter to Ayatollah Khamenei, as if he was trying to tell him something with coded words.

Perhaps the most important clerical supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei are Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah Khoshvaght, and Ayatollah Khamenei's own son, Mojtaba, a mid-ranking cleric.

The mysterious figure not known to most Iranians is Ayatollah Khoshvaght. Ayatollah Khamenei's third son, Mostafa, is married to his daughter. He is a member of the Assembly of Experts, and in July 2007 ran for its presidency, which he lost to Rafsanjani. He is the prayer leader of a large mosque in northern Tehran, and is a radical hard-liner. It is believed, but never proven, that Saeed Emami, the notorious figure who was responsible for the infamous Chain Murders in 1998-1999, which resulted in the murder of six Iranian dissidents (and most likely many more murders from 1988-1998), was a follower of Ayatollah Khoshvaght. He is also said to be close to Ansaar-e Hezbollah, a radical group often unleashed to quell demonstrations.

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, the spiritual leader of Ahmadinejad, is an ultra-conservative cleric who runs the Haghani Seminary and Imam Khomeini Educational Institute in Qom, which received $7 million in aid from the government in 2008. Ayatollah Khamenei has referred to Yazdi as "our era's Motahhari" -- a reference to Ayatollah Sayyed Morteza Motahhari, a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini and a distinguished Islamic scholar who was assassinated a few months after the February 1979 Revolution -- a great compliment, even though Motahhari's and Yazdi's thinking are the opposite of each other! Ahmadinejad's first Vice President (Iran has eight vice presidents), Parviz Davoodi, is a disciple of Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, as are the Intelligence Minister, Mohseni Ejehei, and the Cabinet's "morality teacher," Agha-Tehrani.

However, even these conservative ayatollahs who are closest to the government have been suspiciously silent since the election. Almost none of them have congratulated Ahmadinejad. Even Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi has been unusually silent. (Read more on Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi in "Leaders of Iran's election coup" and "Assembly of Experts").

Meanwhile the nation waited to see what Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president and powerful politician, would do as many believe that the current crisis is partly a manifestation of the long-time rivalry between him and the Supreme Leader. He appeared to be defending the political establishment and performing a perfunctory bow to the Supreme Leader on June 28, the 28th anniversary of the bombing of the headquarters of the Islamic Republican Party that killed many leaders and important figures of the Revolution; but he also criticized those who supervised the election. But, it is widely known that he has visited Qom to warn the clerics that the crisis is much deeper than the disputed election. So, it is perhaps more accurate to say that he is sitting on the fence to see what happens next. (Read more on Rafsanjani: "Rafsanjani's Next Move" and "Who Will Lead?")

Given all the developments listed above, one thing is for sure: Iranian politics will never be the same. Since the run up to the election, many lines have been crossed, many taboos broken, and the position of the Supreme Leader has fallen to earth. It is no longer a Godly position, as the hard-liners have always claimed. That, in the long run, can only be a positive development for Iran. Most importantly, the inherent contradiction between the concept of Velaayat-e Faghih and republicanism in Iran's Constitution (electing the president, the parliament, and the city councils), which has always existed, has finally come to the fore.

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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It is an amazingly delicate shift with many subtle power plays being acted out in Iran. However the end results are the innocent being used and tormented by those with power. Thank you for providing us with the information we need; while the world has lost focus and found a pop star's tragic life more compelling than Iran, there are still those of us who do care. Please keep up the in depth analysis.

Mllea / July 1, 2009 12:00 AM

Thank you for your erudition. What it reveals is that these clerics are not religious men at all, but politicos seeking divine legitimacy for their desires to control society. It seems their deceit has been perceived for what it is by many Iranians (including those who are genuinely devout)

tony barrell / July 1, 2009 6:02 AM

al-Islam is a process.

Khameni's lack of spirituallity has allowed him to become Nejad's tool, and prevented Iranian shi'ia islam from taking the shape it needs in the 21st century.

That is why the people are protesting.

matoko / July 1, 2009 11:09 AM

Numerous electronic voting inconsistencies in developing countries, where governments are often all too eager to manipulate votes, have only added to the controversy. After Hugo Chavez won the 2004 election in Venezuela, it came out that the government owned 28 per cent of Bizta, the company that manufactured the voting machines.

Now Madras High Court is hearing a PIL on the EVMs. This is a good news. I believe time has arrived for taking a long, hard look at these riggable machines that favour the ruling party which has ensured a pliant Election Commission. Otherwise, elections would soon become ridiculed and lose their credibility. The demise of democracy would then be near.

There is much talk today about the possibility of rigging of the electoral outcome in the recent general elections to the Lok Sabha. These doubts have arisen from the unexpected number of seats won by the Congress nation-wide, and these doubts are accentuated by the recent spate of articles published in reputed computer engineering journals as also in the popular international press which raises doubts about the EVMs.

For example, the respected International Electrical & Electronics Engineering Journal (The IEEE, May 2009, p.23) has published an article by two eminent professors of computer science, titled: "Trustworthy Voting" in which they conclude that while electronic voting machines offer a myriad of benefits, these cannot be reaped unless nine suggested safeguards are put in place for protecting the integrity of the outcome. None of these nine safeguards are in place in Indian EVMs. Electronic voting machines in India today do not meet the standard of national integrity and safeguard the sanctity of democracy.

Newsweek magazine issue (dated June 1, 2009) has published an article by Evgeny Morozov, who points out that when Ireland embarked on an ambitious e-voting scheme in 2006, such as fancy touch-screen voting machines, it was widely welcomed: Three years and Euro 51 million later, in April, the government scrapped the entire initiative. What doomed the effort was a lack of trust: The electorate just didn't like that the machines would record their votes as mere electronic blips, with no tangible record.

Morozov points out that one doesn't have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect the fallibility of electronic voting machines. As most PC-users know by now, computers can be hacked. We are not unwilling to accept this security risk in banking, shopping and e-mailing since the fraud is at the micro-level, and of individual consequence which in most cases is rectifiable. But the ballot box needs to be perfectly safeguarded because of the monumental consequence of a rigged or faulty vote recording. It is of macro-significance much like an "e-coup d'etat". At least that's what voters across Europe seem to have said loud and clear.

Thus, a backlash against e-voting is brewing all over the European continent. After almost two years of deliberations, Germany's Supreme Court ruled last March that e-voting was unconstitutional because the average citizen could not be expected to understand the exact steps involved in the recording and tallying of votes. Political scientist Ulrich Wiesner, a physicist who filed the initial lawsuit, said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel that the Dutch Nedap machines used in Germany are even less secure than mobile phones! The Dutch public-interest group Wij Vertrouwen Stemcomputers Niet (We Do Not Trust Voting Machines) produced a video showing how quickly the Nedap machines could be hacked without voters or election officials being aware (the answer: in five minutes!). After the clip was broadcast on national television in October 2006, the Netherlands banned all electronic voting machines.

Numerous electronic voting inconsistencies in developing countries, where governments are often all too eager to manipulate votes, have only added to the controversy. After Hugo Chavez won the 2004 election in Venezuela, it came out that the government owned 28 per cent of Bizta, the company that manufactured the voting machines. On the eve of the 2009 elections in India, I had in a press conference in Chennai raised the issue and pointed out that those who had been convicted in the US for hacking of bank accounts on the internet and credit cards had been recruited just before the elections. In the US, the Secretary of State of California has now set up a full-fledged inquiry into EVMs, after staying all further use.

Why are the EVMs so vulnerable? Each step in the life cycle of a voting machine-- from the time it is developed and installed to when the votes are recorded and the data transferred to a central repository for tallying--involves different people gaining access to the machines, often installing a new software. It wouldn't be hard for, say, an election official to paint a parallel programme under another password, on one or many voting machines that would ensure one outcome or another pre-determined even before voters arrived at the poll stations.

These dangers have been known to the Election Commission since 2000, when Dr MS Gill, the then CEC, had arranged at my initiative for Professor Sanjay Sarma of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Dr Gitanjali Swamy of Harvard to demonstrate how unsafeguarded the chips in EVMs were. Some changes in procedures were made subsequently by the EC, but not on the fundamental flaws that make it compliant to hacking. In 2004, the Supreme Court First Bench of Chief Justice VN Khare, Justices Babu and Kapadia had directed the Election Commission to consider the technical flaws in EVMs put forward by Prof. Satinath Choudhary, a US-based software engineer, in a PIL. But the EC has failed to consider his representation.

There are many ways to prevent EVM fraud. One way to reduce the risk of fraud is to have machines print a paper record of each vote, which voters could then deposit into a conventional ballot box. While this procedure would ensure that each vote can be verified, using paper ballots defeats the purpose of electronic voting in the first place. Using two machines produced by different manufacturers would decrease the risk of a security compromise, but wouldn't eliminate it.

A better way, it is argued in the above-cited IEEE article, is to expose the software behind electronic voting machines to public scrutiny. The root problem of popular electronic machines is that the computer programmes that run them are usually closely held trade secrets (it doesn't help that the software often runs on the Microsoft Windows operating system, which is not the world's most secure). Having the software closely examined and tested by experts not affiliated with the company would make it easier to close technical loopholes that hackers can exploit. Experience with web servers has shown that opening software to public scrutiny can uncover potential security breaches.

However, as the Newsweek article points out, the electronic voting machine industry argues that openness would hurt the competitive position of the current market leaders. A report released by the Election Technology Council, a US trade association, in April this year says that disclosing information on known vulnerabilities might help would-be attackers more than those who would defend against such attacks. Some computer scientists have proposed that computer code be disclosed only to a limited group of certified experts. Making such disclosure mandatory for all electronic voting machines would be a good first step for preventing vote fraud, and also be consistent with openness in the electoral process.

Now Madras High Court is hearing soon a PIL on the EVMs. This is a good news. I believe time has arrived for taking a long, hard look at these riggable machines that favour the ruling party which has ensured a pliant Election Commission. Otherwise, elections would soon become ridiculed and lose their credibility.

The demise of democracy would then be near. Hence evidence must now be collected by all political parties to determine how many constituencies they suspect rigging. The number would not exceed 75 in my opinion. We can identify them as follows: In the 2009 general elections, any result in which the main losing candidate of a recognised party finds that more than 10 per cent of the polling booths showed less than five votes per booth, should be taken prima facie a constituency in which rigging has taken place.

This is because the main recognised parties usually have more than five party workers per booth, and hence with their families would poll a minimum of 25 votes per booth for their party candidate. Hence if these 25 voters can give affidavits affirming who they had voted for, then the High Court can treat it as evidence and order a full inquiry.

(The writer is a former Union Law Minister.)

The results of recent Indian elections have taken everyone by surprise. They are really bizzare. There is something rotten going on. How did Congress and the Western countries which support it slyly managed to get these dream results? Does the possibility of EVM (electronic voting machines) rigging exist?

Why were the Congress courtiers hell-bent on getting Navin Chawla to head the Election Commission? What role could this despicable doormat of 10 Janpath have possibly played? EVMs hold the key to this mystery. Interestingly EVMs are thoroughly discredited the world over because they are prone to manipulation. One agency has even called them a "threat to national security."

All non-Congress parties in India would do well to launch a campaign to ban the use of EVMs. Or at least ensure that the EVM prints a ballot that is then dropped into a box for later counting and tallying the results with the EVMs. Strange things are possible with the use of EVMs. The most bizzare of these being the last-minute win of Chidambaram when he was trailing the other candidate the whole day in counting. Seems like Congress courtiers are allying with some foreign intelligence agencies to rule India in a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" pact.

Many countries have banned EVMs.

Got the following in my email as a response to this blog post:

You might be interested to hear that Dr Anupam Saraph (CIO of Pune, India, and an adviser to the UN and the Asian Development Society) and Professor Madhav Nalapat (Director of the Department of Manipal University, India, as well as a UNESCO Peace Chair holder, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalapat) accidentally discovered files on an official Indian government website that seemed to have voting result numbers long before votes were actually cast.

On May 6th, while looking for routine, publicly available, candidate data during the election, a detailed Excel file of votes polled results for every candidate in India was found on the official website of the Election Commission of India (http://eci.nic.in/candidateinfo/frmcandidate.aspx). That was 9 days before the final votes were cast on May 15. And, even so, the Election Commission was not supposed to have access to votes cast data until May 16, when official counting was to be done.

On May 7 and 11, the Excel file was downloaded again from the Election Commission site. The numbers of votes cast for some candidates changed in each version of the file. In the version of the file downloaded on the last day before the official counting, May 15th, the votes cast results column was blank.

The downloaded files can be found here (the votes cast numbers are in Column N "votespolled"): http://government.wikia.com/wiki/Tracking_the_elections

When news of the files started to spread, the Election Commission closed its site from May 23 to 25. It was back up on the 25th but, until the 29th, you couldn't download the file anymore. You can now, but the votes cast data for each candidate is gone (you can just see who won) even though now, two weeks after the election, is when that data should be available.

The implications are unsettling.

I am Harish from India. we have the same problem our polls also rigged (we use EVMs) .while Iran has a presidential type hence you people burst out but we can't as we have a system like U.K .I will make a deal now .Do not hit at ahamed nijad he is a puppet of CIA .I have concrete information.this a 'part' of a big plan. ahamenijad trying to hit at obama is acting like a nationalist and pose anti-american . the big plan is obama's af-pak he has two I's in it one iran and another india .iran to influence tajiks the second largest ethinic group in afghanisthan and in India so that pak terrorism is tolerated and no war so that pak fights taliban and oves troops from indo-pak border to west pak.This is bill clinton strategy his four pillar kashmir strategy .you have to change target do not hit the missile(ahamed nijad) hit the missile control system (obama) .In 1975 we had a very bad situation the polls were declared fraud by court and our primeminister declared emergency which gave authoritative power.far far worse than yours .After protests then government bend they called for elections .A leader asked her(Indira gandhi) why did you call for elections she said " campgain by indians in america defamed me so i cannot go on forever " .you guys need to do the same

defame obama ,you have international media watching you .use iranians elsewhere to defame him .then he cannot go on for ever. he will push ahamednijad to call for elections .he has been called 'champion of democracy' for his speeches .he wants to solve af-pak crisis to get re-elected . if you damage his image even if af-pak solved, he will not get elected .he will have to bend . Bring the big plan out . 'Damaging democracies around the world : iran and india ' .I want one change in your campgain also stress indian polls damaged this will anger indians across the world .anything in india is of great interest to the world.Indians across the world are unhappy with the present regime for watching a genocide in neighbouring nation on indians(sri lankan tamils) .we are organising indians outside they will join you in defaming obama which will put pressure on him .In india our oppsition regime(mine) has more than 10% of population who are AFFILIATED with them .we are organising 100 million people to protest hence taking time.we also will join .this will defame obama and US .Indians occupy 40% of top jobs in U.S . the opposition leader in U.S is INDIAN origin .As of now obama is indian champion but in this issue he will face anger .CIA has submitted a report telling the lobby if they do not maintain proper ties with India they cannot even remain 3rd powerful .In national interest CIA: a state within state .WIll ask obama to bend to save the country .China will join as they do not want india and US to get together .russia will automatically oppose (dmrity mendreevv and putin are KGB russian spy guys they hate CIA operations) . HIT obama say 'BUSH OR BALD, UNCLE SAM IS BAD','WE HATE OBAMA-BIN-LADIN' 'I HATE AMERICOCRACY' .the change we can believe in . here is what happened to Indian polls.In a constituency the no of votes by all candidates is 23,000 more than that of total votes cast . the home minister was trailing till the last poll booth then suddenly he won.the american are making it look like they want to spoil the present regime and turn iranian nationalists against Mousavi.Truth is different.I wish to tell my Iranian friends words in India's emblem 'TRUTH ALONE TRUIMPS'

harish / July 1, 2009 12:19 PM

"Underlining the climate of fear among direct and even indirect supporters of Mousavi's campaign for the election to be annulled, the sources also reported that a prominent cleric gave a speech to opposition protesters in Teheran earlier this week in which he publicly acknowledged that the very act of speaking at the gathering would likely cost him his life. "Ayatollah Hadi Gafouri said that the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] never wanted [current supreme Leader] Ali Khamenei to succeed him. He even went to say that the Islamic republic died the day the Imam did," one source said."

Why would Gafouri say that?

I think Qom is cutting the ties between Khomeini and Khameni in preparation for removing Khameni by a vote of the Assembly of Experts.

matoko / July 1, 2009 3:35 PM

Wow, what a brilliant article... as - like many people from the west - a sudden and new observor of Iranian politics, I am simply amazed at the larger than life plots, characters and conspiracies that lie beneath the tragedy of the post election clampdown. Better than any fiction anyone could write. The mind boggles as to how such religious figures could tacitly or openly condone murder, torture and suppresion. But then again that was almost the entire story of religion in the west for thousands of years. Whuch takes us to the point...

These conservatives are living in the middle ages, they are commited to mainating their country in the middle ages (with the slight compromise of a nuclear bomb or two), and they will stop at nothing.

For all the splits you mention in the article, I just can't help feel that as long as the president and supreme leader have the armed forces - they have the power. Nothing Mousavi or the other clerics can do about it. They must somehow mobilise peacefully or otherwise millions of Iranians - too many for the basiji on motorbikes to mess with.

May the true divine power be with the protestors and their leaders.

Rokeby / July 2, 2009 8:19 AM

Thanks for the Who's Who in each camp, it's otherwise very confusing; I hope Iranians all learn the names of all who stand to gain by misuing people so viciously.

I hope Mr. Sahimi can provide an in-depth analysis similar to this on the Revolutionary Guard (with names, ranks, history of reshuffling ...). It would be just as illuminating and interesting.

Mani / July 2, 2009 8:43 AM

Many people in he world are different for the colour of our skin...but all of us have the same colour of blood within...your blood spilt is as important to me as I losing blood...you torture is as harrowing to me as if I was beaten, too. That's why we must stand by you...till you're a free nation & a people with God giving smiles...not the people with such "Hater" of people as leader's...who only bring tears to your eyes. One day soon, your smiles will out shine as bright as the "Sun" while your (those who are rotten) present fraudulent Leader's. In "Hell's Fires" will burn & burn & burn for "Eternity"!

Love to all free seeking Iranian's & God (willing) SPEED on your path to "Freedom"! You'll "Get it"..."Have Faith"!

v.gerrard / July 2, 2009 11:28 AM

Do you know why Iran is so confusing? It's really a parlimentary system of government. Each religious faction tests the waters with their list of candidates. Maybe these men would never do anything dishonest or corrupt but the people beneath them are another matter.

As far as the 12th Imam is concerned are the senior clerics afraid that a Gulf peace deal will keep the faction that runs the government and concludes the deal in power for years? Waiting for the Imam? Or is there genuine concern that Khameini just isn't interested and would prefer to keep the Islamic Republic in isolation and pure? Can they be acting on the powerful observation of Lord Acton that power corrupts? FDR's coalition kept power so long that it lead to a limit of eight years on the Presidency but in Iran the President can be dismissed from his office by the Ayatollah. This battle is taking place in Qum. Khameini could promise that the government will actively pursue a peace deal but in public or in private? If he publically pursues a peace deal will he alienate his support? If he private does so, will he keep his word? It becomes a matter of trust. Religious elders might personally trust him but the people around him are another matter. If they engaged in a campaign of dirty tricks any confidence diminishes. Will he surrender power? Or seize it?

Daedalus / July 5, 2009 11:12 AM