A quick guide to Iranian election results

The Iranian interior ministry has released preliminary results from yesterday’s presidential election. With something like 30% of the vote counted (almost twelve million; there are about 50 million on the rolls, so the total vote might be around 40 million), moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani has a commanding lead: 50.6% against 15.4% for his nearest rival, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and 12.7% for the clerics’ favorite, Saeed Jalili.

The interior ministry’s website is here, but if (like me) you’ve got no knowledge of Persian (Farsi) it’s not easy to decipher. Clicking on the most recent news story brings you to the update, but although Iran uses our numerals, they’re written left to right within each group of three, despite the fact that the rest of the language is written right to left. So, for example, 139/686/11 (the total valid vote) is 11,686,139.

Some kind person has been transcribing them to Wikipedia, so if that keeps up that’s probably the best place to look. Failing that you could try the Farsi version of Wikipedia, but that’s hard because it’s using eastern Arabic numerals, not our western ones.

Or of course you could rely on the media: here’s Al-Jazeera, here’s the BBC, here’s the Guardian. And here’s Juan Cole’s initial thoughts, always worth a read.

This could be really interesting. But we don’t know where those votes are coming from, so with Rouhani only just above 50% there’s no certainty of him avoiding a runoff. And since the other candidates are all basically conservatives, one would expect they will consolidate their support then – not to mention the chance of the regime resorting to ballot-stuffing or other creative options.

Further updates to come as the situation develops.


*UPDATE (1.45pm, Iran time)*

OK, there’s a warning against trusting Wikipedia too much: its version of the last update inexplicably inflated the vote of the last-placed candidate, Mohammad Gharazi (I’ve now fixed it), so the percentages above for the front-runners are all a bit too low; Rouhani is actually on 51.8%. The official version is here. (Perhaps trying to be helpful, the interior ministry has abandoned its grouping of digits in the totals – they now just read like ordinary numbers, from left to right.)

*FURTHER UPDATE (2.45pm, Iran time)*

Rouhani’s lead is holding up, in fact extending slightly he’s now on 52.2%. Jalili has dropped to fourth place, on 11.7%, so I think we can safely say he’s out of contention. Ghalibaf is still running second, on 15.8%, followed by Mohsen Rezai (or Rezaei, or Rezaee) with 13.0%.

If the government is right about turnout being 75%, then the 16.7 million or so counted so far would represent about 45% of the vote, which is a pretty solid sample. So even if the votes so far have come from his best areas, the chance of Rouhani being overtaken is negligible. But it’s still entirely possible he could be forced to a second round.


Twenty-three million votes now counted, which must surely be more than half the total, and Rouhani’s percentage continues creeping upwards: he’s now on 52.8%. Ghalibaf has 15.7%, Rezai 12.2% and Jalili still 11.7%. Even if he somehow drops below 50%, Rouhani is going to be so far ahead that it’s hard to imagine him losing a runoff unless the other side cheats.

Note that whoever’s putting the figures on Wikipedia is calculating the percentages out of the total vote, not the formal vote, so they’re all a bit too low. But the raw numbers seem to be right.

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