When I talked to Trita Parsi and Gary Sick about the potential for fraud in yesterday’s Iranian presidential elections, one thing both of them seemed to agree on was that the potential for cooking the books was limited. The opposition isn’t stupid. They have election monitors. If Mousavi won a huge majority, there would be nothing for Ahmadinejad to do. Whatever the threshold is between an election the Interior ministry can rig without getting caught and an election where they have to let the true results stand is (five million votes is the figure I heard most often), Iran’s leadership dare not cross it. In Parsi’s words, “There would be a scandal of a scale previously unseen such that I don’t know if the system could handle it.”
Now that – trusting opposition accounts are correct – the Interior Ministry tried to rig an unriggable election, and Laura Rozen is reporting that, “Iran hands have used words like “coup” to describe what they believe may be taking place,” Parsi’s line is seeming mighty prescient. This is big. And I’m glad we have an administration that is willing to butt out and allow events to run their course.
P.S. Karim Sadjadpour, quoted by Reuters (via Rozen):
I don’t think anyone anticipated this level of fraudulence…This was a selection, not an election. At least authoritarian regimes like Syria and Egypt have no democratic pretences. In retrospect it appears this entire campaign was a show: Ayatollah Khamenei wasn’t ever going to let Ahmadinejad lose.
And here’s Juan Cole on just how much evidence there is that the election was stolen. At this point, we might as well start picking out a color label for the revolution.