Ethnic politics and Iran’s election

Today there is relative quiet on the streets of Iran.  Protests had spread from the capital to Esfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz, as far east as Sistan-Baluchestan, and as far west as cities in and around the larger Kurdish region such as Orumiyeh and Kermanshah.  According to sources inside Iran, there was unrest at the universities in Sistan-Baluchestan, Kermanshah and Mazandaran.  In Kermanshah, Iranian security forces raided the university and dormitory and several were reportedly injured and taken into custody. In Orumiyeh, a rally of 3,000 people was held before Iranian security forces attacked the rally and at least 2 people were killed.

Election results by province (source:  Click for larger image.

Election results by province (source: Click for larger image.

Some Kurdish cities, such as Sanandaj, were reported to have boycotted the elections altogether. An anonymous source that belonged to the boycotting group said, “It is not an election or choice to choose between bad and worse. We want a regime change.”

Tweets from several sources report that in Marivan (Kordestan province) people attacked government offices and burned portraits of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.

Since becoming president in 2005, Ahmadinejad’s policies promote subversion of regional identities in favour of a unified revolutionary, Islamic identity. Tehran has been reluctant to continue granting increased regional autonomy. Heightened Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activity in the peripheral areas, particularly in the South-eastern region dominated by the Baloch people, and the North-western Kurdish areas, has provoked a series of backlashes against the regime.

The discourse on ethnic politics has drastically expanded during this past election, as an attempt to address minority issues. According to news reports on the campaign, Mousavi campaigned heavily in the periphery provinces such as Azerbaijan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Mazandaran and Golestan and was a popular candidate.  Studies on voting behaviour in Iran suggest that peripheral groups are most likely to vote for reformist candidates. These voters respond not only to ethnic ties, but also to active campaigning.  As seen in the election results province map, this theory is, to some extent, borne out. Ahmadinejad’s strongest support came from the central and eastern regions of the country; the least diverse areas.  This too is where he had the most support in the 2005 election.

The three candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad (Mousavi, Karoubi and Rezai) presented Iran’s Guardian Council with a list of election irregularities. They included the exclusion of their representatives from polling stations and counts; shortages of ballot papers in opposition strongholds; packing of electoral committees with Ahmadinejad supporters; vote buying; improper use of state resources and media; and using the identity cards of dead people to cast ballots.

Iranian government reports the following results for the four Kurdish provinces in the NW of the country:


Iran map: ethnic groups

Iran map: ethnic groups

Ahmadinejad: 65%
Mousavi: 31%
Rezai: 2%
Karoubi: 2%

Ahmadinejad: 59%
Mousavi: 39%
Rezai: 1%
Karoubi: <1%

Ahmadinejad: 53%
Mousavi: 44%
Rezai: 1%
Karoubi: 2%

Ahmadinejad: 47%
Mousavi: 50%
Rezai: 1%
Karoubi: 2%

For a city by city breakdown of election results click here.


Analysis: Protests in Iran spread to major cities in Kurdistan, Kurdish Media, 19 June 2009

Fletcher, Martin. The evidence that points to Ahmadinejad stealing Iranian election, Times Online, 18 June 2009.

Special Report: Elections Iran 2009, UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization), 18 June 2009


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