The Guardian reports that several different sets of election figures now float around Iran, showing wildly different outcomes of the recently botched election.  One set, though appears to predate the election itself.  Did the Iranians model a landslide Ahmadinejad win and then send the figures to the polling stations?

Amid a swirl of rumour, two alternative sets of statistics purporting to represent the reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi as the “true” winner of Iran’s disputed presidential election have been circulating in Tehran.

Their authenticity is impossible to gauge. One set, attributed to an “informed source” in the interior ministry and appearing on Iranian opposition websites, shows Mousavi winning 21.3m votes, or 57.2% of the total – enough to give him outright victory without a second-round run-off. …

The figures have been accompanied by claims from unnamed interior ministry sources that fake statistics were fed into a software program and then distributed to vote counts among polling stations to produce a plausible outcome. The same sources have also claimed that the interior ministry’s statements announcing the results were prepared before Friday night’s count.

James Joyner wonders whether an actual Mousavi blowout didn’t prompt the immediate crackdown on protests:

Only time will tell if these claims are genuine, but a blowout this size would certainly explain why the Iranian government wasted no time in violently cracking down on peaceful protests. And it’s worth mentioning that the poll that my colleague Dave Schuler linked to earlier today showed Ahmadinejad with only 34% support with a 3.5% margin of error three weeks ago, so 28% for Ahmadinejad is not outside the realm of possibility.

In Iran’s case, the quick oppression would have come regardless of how big Mousavi won, but the Iranians may have had a pretty good idea of the scale of the protests ahead of time.  I doubt that we’ll ever get a straight story on the actual results; if the mullahs are even barely sentient, they would have tubed the evidence of fraud after committing it.  The only numbers that they will produce will be the official numbers from the election, whether they were pre-programmed or not, unless they get to the last extremity and frame Ahmadinejad for the fraud.

This is the danger for despots when they conduct elections as covers for their tyranny and/or oppression.  Ukraine’s ruling class had a firm grip on power until they botched the effort to rig an election, and they touched off a grassroots revolution that put them out of power.  Elections offer some hope of self-determination, and when they get exposed as frauds, the disillusionment leads to a rage that would have taken years to build, if ever.  Hopefully, the Iranian mullahs will learn this lesson the hard way.