The best I can do is seek those voices of experts who seem credible to me. Interestingly, the Guardian's CiF has two such fellows up right now. Iranian expatriate Abbas Barzegar reports from Teheran that it was ever only wishful thinking to expect Ahmedinejad might lose:
I have been in Iran for exactly one week covering the 2009 Iranian election
carnival. Since I arrived, few here doubted that the incumbent firebrand
President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad would win. My airport cab driver reminded me that the president had visited every province twice in the last four years – "Iran
isn't Tehran," he said. Even when I asked Mousavi supporters if their man could
really carry more than capital, their responses were filled with an Obamasque
provisional optimism – "Yes we can", "I hope so", "If you vote." So the question
occupying the international media, "How did Mousavi lose?" seems to be less a
problem of the Iranian election commission and more a matter of bad perception
rooted in the stubborn refusal to understand the role of religion in Iran.
Meanwhile, Teheran-based Saeed Kamali Dehghan explains that the elections were clearly stolen:
I have visited at least 10 provinces, some villages and couple of rural places
in the past month. I attended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's big rally in Tehran's Mosala
religious complex last Tuesday as well as President Mohammad Khatami's huge
pro-Mousavi rally in Isfahan on Wednesday and I have talked to pro-Ahmadinejad
villagers who were paid money and given potatoes, but the results announced
today are completely meaningless and ridiculous for me.
These two perspectives, of course, aren't actually mutually exclusive. Ahmedinejad could both have won, perhaps narrowly, and stolen the election; the Ayatollahs, the real powerbrokers, may have decided that since he won they could comfortably crack down on the elements that from their perspective have been getting out of control recently.
Of course I'm making that up; spinning whole cloth out of thin air so as to use it to cut a baseless story line. Which is what most of the Western media seems to be doing, too. They don't have the faintest idea what's really going on in Iran, nor the slightest qualifications to find out, and certainly not the patience to spend the years necessary to obtain those qualifications. What they do have, however, is a beloved narrative, whereby President Obama is transforming the world into a nicer place, and since he's doing this so adroitly, it's working; by holding out his open hand he's encouraging others to unclench their fists - well, most others. Not the Israelis of course, and their ghastly government. And not those weird North Koreans. But just about everyone else.
At the end of the day, it doesn't make much difference if the Iranian election was stolen or not. It wasn't democratic to begin with, as any honest observer should have admitted, since only politically acceptable men were ever allowed to run, and because the real positions of power aren't decided by ballot in Iran. More important, whether the election was stolen or not is immaterial to the question of what happens next. This will be determined by the people wielding power, not by the nicer people who aren't. Deal with it.