IRAN'S Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retains presidency following general elections that brought a record 85 percent of eligible voters to the polling booths, signalling the continuation of current policies. According to the Election Commission, Mr Ahmadinejad received 62.63 percent and runner-up former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi 33.75 percent, much to the shock of the US and other Western countries. They perceive Mr Ahmadinejad as a hardliner with whom it is difficult to come to terms with. They were hoping that the reformist Mousavi would carry the day and they might be able to strike a deal with him on Iran's uranium enrichment programme, their most nagging worry, and its hostility towards Israel. In that they were deliberately ignoring the ground reality that leaves the formulation and pursuit of major policies like the nuclear programme in the hands of conservative clerics. Unless there is change in their perception of the need for uranium enrichment in the national interest things would remain the same. President, therefore, has minimal role that does not touch the substance. However, with soft-spoken Mousavi as President, the issue of Holocaust would have most probably disappeared from the newspaper headlines and the vitriolic denunciation of the Jewish state somewhat muffled. The truth is that little change in substance should be expected from Tehran and other Muslim capitals in the world till Israel changes tack and the Palestinian issue shows signs of getting resolved. For Islamabad, the most important thing is to strengthen friendly relations with Tehran, irrespective of whom the Iranian people choose as their head of state. The outcome of the elections is being strongly disputed by the Mousavi camp, which somehow was assuming its candidate to romp home in the belief that the country's growing younger generations would opt for change for a 'less confrontational' approach to foreign policy. On the other hand, Mr Ahmadinejad enjoyed a strong support from the ruralite and the poor, who saw him as one of them, leading a simple life. The millions of government officials were also expected to cast their ballot in his favour. Mr Mousavi has taken up the accusation of rigging (shortage of ballots, total disruption of communication network that prevented the people to send text messages, etc.) with supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and his fans have staged protests that were beaten off by the police. However, the final outcome is hardly likely to change, whether his supporters come out in large numbers or not. The US had better prepare itself to deal with Mr Ahmadinejad.