But one could more plausibly suggest that if a âcoupâ is being attempted, it has been mounted by the losers in Fridayâs election. It was Mousavi, after all, who declared victory on Friday even before Iranâs polls closed. And three days before the election, Mousavi supporter Rafsanjani published a letter criticizing the leaderâs failure to rein in Ahmadinejadâs resort to âsuch ugly and sin-infected phenomena as insults, lies and false allegations.â Many Iranians took this letter as an indication that the Mousavi camp was concerned their candidate had fallen behind in the campaignâs closing days.
They ignore the fact that Ahmadinejadâs 62.6 percent of the vote in this yearâs 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 âIran expertsâ over Fridayâs results is entirely self-generated, based on their preferred assumptions and wishful thinking.
Although Iranâs 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 Khatamiâs surprise victory in the 1997 presidential election. Moreover, âblowoutsâ also occur â as in Khatamiâs reelection in 2001, Ahmadinejadâs first victory in 2005 and, we would argue, this year.
Like much of the Western media, most American âIran expertsâ overstated Mir Hossein Mousaviâs âsurgeâ over the campaignâs final weeks. More important, they were oblivious â as in 2005 â to Ahmadinejadâs effectiveness as a populist politician and campaigner. American âIran expertsâ 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.