Rational People Never Foretell the Elections, Iranian Analyst

A woman casts her vote in Tehran./ Photo: ISNA

A woman casts her vote in Tehran./ Photo: ISNA

Iranians voted Friday in a presidential contest that pit President Hassan Rouhani against a serious challenger, Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, in an unexpectedly tight race. Election polls historically misses their mark and unable to correctly predict Iran elections’ results. The results of latest US presidential election also came as a surprise to nearly everyone. Relying largely on opinion polls, election forecasters put Clinton’s chance of winning at 70%! In such circumstances, many observers are casting doubt on the accuracy of public opinion polls.

“The war of polls is scientific on the face of it, but it is commonplace in actual fact which has no realist bases and standard criteria. In Iran, too, a big difference in the results of the polls of the two parties in the elections is indicative of the fact that none of them is blessed with pragmatic and scientific tools for opinion surveys. Moreover, performance of big institutions has been discredited many times, such as the presidential elections of 2005 and 2013. In both these elections, the polls had never given a chance for the candidates who won the elections in the end. As a result, the polls should be taken into consideration in a careful manner”, says Payam Fazlinejad, having cooperated with various reformist as well as Principlist press as a writer and analyst.

Pointing to the devastating effects of the war of polls, he said, “Lack of analytical power and power measurement are risky, and leave negative effects on the decisions of the campaigns in the remaining three days to the election day because some part of their political decisions are made in these days based on the very polls and surveys which has no scientific base. The trend can result in miscalculations in campaigns of both parties either prior or subsequent to the elections. It even may turn triumph into a complete failure in the long run. The outburst of news about such matters in the last days which are on the basis of these opinion polls may work against itself only if it is mixed with miscalculations. It can be the case for all the campaigns.

In response to the question of “How close are the predictions of the reformist and Principlist elites and statesmen to what the people, in general, believe about the winner of the elections?” Fazlinejad, who has the experience of working as a senior researcher in the institution Keyhan for ten years, said, “We should learn from the experience. The US elections in 2016 proved with certainty that prediction is irrational in actual fact. I believe in Churchill’s statements which is peculiar to Iran’s political society, ’A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen’. Iran is a complex society which no one can foretell its behavior and unfortunately, no attempt has been made in order to work on its predictability. For the purpose of making the society predictable, we are supposed to work out plans for developing political psychology as well as political sociology circles, but neither elites nor statesmen actually pay attention to such fields except for the night of the elections!

In response to the question of “What do you think are the wrong measures of both parties?”, he said, “Both parties have heavily invested in the cyberspace and social networks, but took no notice of the real society from the beginning. When the political activists restrict themselves to the cyberspace, their relationship with different social strata and their issues and concerns are reduced and they lose the power of creating a big social movement. Both parties have made their best in the last two weeks to keep their supporters away from the “cyberspace restriction” in social networks. They have developed plans such as sending representatives to far-off places, small towns and villages, but leading the supporters to social networks, and the distribution of news and analyses in internet media have resulted in the energy outburst far on in time.

Payam Fazlinezhad is an Iranian journalist and author who worked as a senior researcher in the Keyhan institution for ten years. He is also the founder and former editor-in-chief of the The Age of Reflection, an Iranian magazine on humanities./Photo: Reza Zakeri

Payam Fazlinezhad is an Iranian journalist and author who worked as a senior researcher in the Keyhan institution for ten years. He is also the founder and former editor-in-chief of the The Age of Reflection, an Iranian magazine on humanities./Photo: Reza Zakeri

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