Monday, April 13, 2009

Predicting the Iranian Presidential Elections?

Recently I was asked if I could predict the outcome of the Iranian Presidential elections on June 12, 2009, based on what people are saying on Blogs and the Web about the candidates. Unfortunately this is a much harder task than predicting the US Presidential elections, or the Zurich Mayoral elections, as our system is not set up to parse and rank Farsi Web sites.

Nevertheless, I was curious what I would find out. I took the leading candidates from the Wikipedia page. They are Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current incumbent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who is running as an independent, and Mehdi Karroubi. There is a whole list of other potential candidates listed on Wikipedia, which I ignored for my tests. I included Mohammad Khatami, former President of Iran, who has endorsed Mousavi.

Below is the Condor/CoolTrend picture of what the English Web said for the last four days:

Mehdi Karoubi leads the Web Buzz in the US/English Web.
In the US/English Blogosphere, the picture is different:

Current incumbent Ahmadinejad is leading. Based on prior analysis of many other elections, Blogs predict the trend fairly well, so things look bright for Ahmadinejad, at least today.
BUT, this is only on English blogs. So let's look what Iranian Web sites and blogs say. As we don't have a Farsi analysis system, I just entered the same query into CoolTrend, limiting it however to the "ir" domain. A very different picture is emerging. Inside Iran, on the Web, Mousavi and Kahatimi, who is supporting Mousavi, are leading:

The same picture is true for the blogosphere, Khatami and Mousavi are leading. This is confirmed by a poll from late March, which puts Mousavi ahead.

The final picture shows the social network of candidates and their shares today (April 13, 2009), restricted to Iranian Web sites. As our system can not handle Farsi characters, only the candidates' names are displayed, the URLs could not be shown:

So, on the Internet, we know who the next Iranian President might be, at least for today: Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting analysis!

    I see some special issues specific to Iran's society to be taken into consideration:

    1. A small portion of population in Iran publishes on the web in English and those who do normally do not do it in .ir domains because the government closely monitors the content on these domains and keeps track of the people behind them (to have a .ir domain you need to actually go to a government office and verify your contact information). This may cause the sample on Iranian websites to be self selected.

    2. Many of Ahmadinejad's supporters are normal average Iranians who do not use internet on a day-to-day basis while supporter's of more moderate candidates are (much) better educated.

    I believe the mix of (1) and (2) brought about the unexpected results of the previous election which ended in Ahmadinejad's victory. He was off of our radar. Basically no one had heard of him! Sadly, this may happen again.