It was the election that so many — both inside and outside of Iran — had so much hope riding on. But there was no fairytale ending for those looking to see change and reform in Friday’s Iranian presidential election, with incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returning to power and many Iranians taking to the streets in protest despite severe police repercussions.

So where did it all go wrong? Is this just a blatantly rigged election as so many analysts are declaring? Or did the Western commentariat grossly misinterpret the sentiment of Iran’s working class, projecting our own hopes onto a very different country and culture?

Here’s what the pundits had to say:

Democracy is the loser in Iran’s “free” election. The election results, announced over the weekend, lack all credibility. The exceptionally high turnout of 85 per cent should have favoured his main rival, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, particularly in the capital, Tehran, and in Mr Mousavi’s northwestern heartland of Azerbaijan . — The Telegraph

What Ahmadinejad’s win means for Iran, Israel and the US. It appears that the working classes and the rural poor — the people who do not much look or act or talk like us — voted overwhelmingly for the scruffy, scrappy president who looks and acts and talks more or less like them. And while Mousavi and his supporters are protesting and even scuffling with police, they are just as likely to be overwhelmed in the streets as they were at the polls. — Christopher Dickey, Newsweek

Tehran’s streets become a battleground. In neighborhoods across north and central Tehran, shouts of “Death to dictator!” fill the air, mostly in female voices, coming from house windows. There are also shouts of “Allah-o Akbar!” — reminiscent of the revolution — on the urging of a communique from Mousavi’s office. — Nahid Siamdoust , TIME

Reverberations as door slams on hope of change. For those who dreamed of a gentler Iran, Saturday was a day of smoldering anger, crushed hopes and punctured illusions, from the streets of Tehran to the policy centers of Western capitals. — Bill Keller, New York Times

An absurd outcome. The notion that nearly two-thirds of Iranians want another four years of Ahmadinejad strains any credulity. By nearly every measure, his presidency has been disastrous for most Iranians. — Suzanne Maloney , The Daily Beast

Iran erupts as voters back “the Democrator”. First the cop screamed abuse at Mir Hossein Mousavi’s supporter, a white-shirted youth with a straggling beard and unkempt hair. Then he smashed his baton into the young man’s face. Then he kicked him viciously in the testicles … It was an easy message to understand. A smash in the face, a kick in the balls and Long Live the Democrator. — Robert Fisk, The Independent