IN OTHER WORDS : Iran race

What a surprise: in the race for the mostly meaningless position of president of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the conservative hard-line mayor of Tehran, came in second place, and will be in a runoff on Friday with Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president.

There are few who actually believed that the Iranian elections were going to be anything more than a sham to begin with, given that it was a council of unelected clerics deciding who would and who wouldn’t be allowed to run. Still, Saturday’s results are disturbing because they appear to have catapulted to centre stage a hard-liner best known for removing the English soccer player David Beckham from Tehran billboards and an entrenched believer in Iran’s right to make its own nuclear fuel. That issue is particularly critical in light of the latest disclosure that Tehran has been experimenting not just with enriched uranium but also with plutonium. Rafsanjani, for his part, is no reformist by any standard. His two previous presidential terms, from 1989 to 1997, were scarred by state-sponsored terrorism at home and abroad. There is little in his record to justify any hope that, if elected, he would reach an acceptable nuclear deal and then sell it to the clerical establishment either. Whatever the results, hopes for real reform in Iran are bleak. — The New York Times