But one could more plausibly suggest that if a ‚Äúcoup‚ÄĚ is being attempted, it has been mounted by the losers in Friday‚Äôs election. It was Mousavi, after all, who declared victory on Friday even before Iran‚Äôs polls closed. And three days before the election, Mousavi supporter Rafsanjani published a letter criticizing the leader‚Äôs failure to rein in Ahmadinejad‚Äôs resort to ‚Äúsuch ugly and sin-infected phenomena as insults, lies and false allegations.‚ÄĚ Many Iranians took this letter as an indication that the Mousavi camp was concerned their candidate had fallen behind in the campaign‚Äôs closing days.
They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejad‚Äôs 62.6 percent of the vote in this year‚Äôs election is essentially the same as the 61.69 percent he received in the final count of the 2005 presidential election, when he trounced former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The shock of the ‚ÄúIran experts‚ÄĚ over Friday‚Äôs results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.
Although Iran‚Äôs elections are not free by Western standards, the Islamic Republic has a 30-year history of highly contested and competitive elections at the presidential, parliamentary and local levels. Manipulation has always been there, as it is in many other countries.
But upsets occur ‚ÄĒ as, most notably, with Mohammed Khatami‚Äôs surprise victory in the 1997 presidential election. Moreover, ‚Äúblowouts‚ÄĚ also occur ‚ÄĒ as in Khatami‚Äôs reelection in 2001, Ahmadinejad‚Äôs first victory in 2005 and, we would argue, this year.
Like much of the Western media, most American ‚ÄúIran experts‚ÄĚ overstated Mir Hossein Mousavi‚Äôs ‚Äúsurge‚ÄĚ over the campaign‚Äôs final weeks. More important, they were oblivious ‚ÄĒ as in 2005 ‚ÄĒ to Ahmadinejad‚Äôs effectiveness as a populist politician and campaigner. American ‚ÄúIran experts‚ÄĚ missed how Ahmadinejad was perceived by most Iranians as having won the nationally televised debates with his three opponents ‚ÄĒ especially his debate with Mousavi.