But one could more plausibly suggest that if a â€ścoupâ€ť is being attempted, it has been mounted by the losers in Fridayâ€™s election. It was Mousavi, after all, who declared victory on Friday even before Iranâ€™s polls closed. And three days before the election, Mousavi supporter Rafsanjani published a letter criticizing the leaderâ€™s failure to rein in Ahmadinejadâ€™s resort to â€śsuch ugly and sin-infected phenomena as insults, lies and false allegations.â€ť Many Iranians took this letter as an indication that the Mousavi camp was concerned their candidate had fallen behind in the campaignâ€™s closing days.
They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejadâ€™s 62.6 percent of the vote in this yearâ€™s 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 â€śIran expertsâ€ť over Fridayâ€™s results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.
Although Iranâ€™s 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 â€” as, most notably, with Mohammed Khatamiâ€™s surprise victory in the 1997 presidential election. Moreover, â€śblowoutsâ€ť also occur â€” as in Khatamiâ€™s reelection in 2001, Ahmadinejadâ€™s first victory in 2005 and, we would argue, this year.
Like much of the Western media, most American â€śIran expertsâ€ť overstated Mir Hossein Mousaviâ€™s â€śsurgeâ€ť over the campaignâ€™s final weeks. More important, they were oblivious â€” as in 2005 â€” to Ahmadinejadâ€™s effectiveness as a populist politician and campaigner. American â€śIran expertsâ€ť missed how Ahmadinejad was perceived by most Iranians as having won the nationally televised debates with his three opponents â€” especially his debate with Mousavi.