I posted something on the sister blog about the fake vote totals from the Syrian election. We know the numbers are fake from the official report, which reads:
Speaker of the People’s Assembly, Mohammad Jihad al-Laham announced Wednesday that Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad won the post of the Syrian Arab Republic’s President for a new constitutional term . . . The number of those who have the right to take part in the presidential elections inside and outside Syria reached at 15.845.575 citizens and the number of participants in the voting reached at 11.634.412 while the number of invalid papers reached at 442.108 with 3.8%.
He added that the number of votes each candidate has gained in a proper sequence was: Dr. Bashar Hafez al-Assad is 10.319.723 votes with 88.7% out of the correct votes, Dr. Hassan Abdullah al-Nouri, got 500,279 votes with a percentage of 4.3% of the valid votes, while Mr. Maher Abdul-Hafiz Hajjar got 372,301 with a percentage of 3.2% of the valid votes.
Speaker al-Laham said that the announcement of results came in accordance with article No. 86 of the Constitution and item B of Article 79 of the General Elections’ Law, expressing, by the name of People’s Assembly, his pride of the Syrian people’s option and their correct decision, blessing, at the same time, this Arab leader who is confident in his people’s will.
OK, I just included the last paragraph for its amusement value. As was pointed out to me by Anatoly Vorobey, the real clues are in the earlier paragraphs. The trouble is that those percentages are exact. Here are the numbers:
Assad: 0.887 * 11634412 = 10319723.4
Nouri: 0.043 * 11634412 = 500279.7
Hajjar: 0.032 * 11634412 = 372301.2
Invalid ballots: 0.038 * 11634412 = 442107.7
In each case, the reported vote total is a rounded version of the exact percentage (even, oddly enough, the reported number of invalid ballots). What’s the probability of this happening? The exact percentages are 0.001*11634412 = 11634 votes apart. Each exact percentage could come to two different reported votes (as you could round up or down), thus the chance of accidentally hitting an exact percentage is 1 in 11634/2=5817. The probability of this happening 4 times, completely by chance, is 1/5817 to the 4th power, or 8.7 x 10^-16. [Correction: as Bob pointed out in comments, the 4 numbers are constrained to add to the total, so the exact match is only happening 3 independent times, which gives a p-value of approximately 1/5817 to the 4th power, or 5 x 10^-12.]
So that’s the p-value. But I couldn’t bring myself to compute it. It’s such an extreme number, it’s just silly. Enough to say that the evidence is clear.
On the other hand, if I had written it up as an article, computed the p-value, and put it on Arxiv, maybe it would’ve gotten some attention—maybe even blogged at the Washington Post . . .
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.