Thursday, June 16, 2005

Iran News - Techno trumps ideology to bag Iran youth vote

Iran News - Techno trumps ideology to bag Iran youth vote: "Techno trumps ideology to bag Iran youth vote

Wednesday, June 15, 2005 - ©2005

LONDON, June 15 (IranMania) - Hardliners or reformers, the presidential candidates agree on one thing -- the importance of slick marketing to win the support of Iran's legion of young voters with a modern and surprisingly ideology-free message, according to AFP.

With pounding Iranian techno music, the Internet, and references to Iran's World Cup football success, the hopefuls in Friday's vote have been using modern techniques to tip the balance in what could be a close-run poll

The best-placed hardliner, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, has been at pains to transform himself to Dr Qalibaf, PhD in Geopolitics, from General Qalibaf, the former police chief who demanded the repression of pro-democracy protests in

His closeness to supreme leader Ali Khamenei appears to have been forgotten and instead he appears in election posters dressed in a smart suit or in his Iran Air pilot's uniform to remind voters of his part-time occupation as an aviator.

While Qalibaf's political allies were disgusted in 1997 by the behaviour of women who rushed into the streets to celebrate Iran's qualification for the World Cup, his website now shows a young woman celebrating its ticket for the Germany 2006 finals.

The sensitivity of Qalibaf's campaign team to their candidate's image shows the importance of young voters in a country where the under-30s now make up 70 percent of the population.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the 70-year-old ayatollah and former president seen as the favourite, is also making an all-out effort to grab the youth vote.

His supporters handed out photos of the cleric with Iranian football stars to supporters attending Iran's wildly celebrated win over Bahrain to qualify for the World Cup last week.

Many cars in the capital are now sporting "Hashemi 2005" stickers in Latin script that clearly mimic the "Germany 2006" motto.

He also appeared on a television discussing topic ranging from fashion to sex with young people, even confessing with a mischievous look that "I did things in my youth that I still don't dare to talk about."

The other cleric in the race -- the moderate Mehdi Karoubi -- chooses to pose on his campaign posters smiling and with his hand on his cheek in an unorthodox image for cleric.

The absence of old-style ideological rhetoric from any of the candidates is nearly as conspicuous as the presence of modern election techniques, with none of the contenders attempting to rouse the masses with ambitions to export the Islamic revolution elsewhere.

None of the 14 points in Rafsanjani's "pact with the people" manifesto refers to Islamic values. His slogan -- "Everyone to work together!" is just as woolly as Qalibaf's "Iranians deserve to live well."

The ultra-conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaie, 51, whose son fled to the United States, says that "after God, it's the youth which counts the most", promising a "joyful Iran" and even "a government of love".

Another hardline candidate, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, 49, vows that his government will be made up of "70 million ministers". Ali Larijani, a former member of the Revolutionary Guards, promises a "government of hope and pure air".

Even the hardest of the hardliners, Ahmadinejad, presents himself as "University Professor and Mayor of Tehran" rather than a one-time member of the Revolutionary Guards. "He's not military, he's a professor," one of his campaign team pointed out.

"My country, I will rebuild you" -- it is hard to guess this is the slogan of the reformist Mostafa Moin even if it is the most subversive. His website has pictures of two the hardliners' main foes: Said Hajjarian, a reformer seriously injured by an extremist in March 2000 and the former culture minister Atollah Mohajerani, briefly imprisoned in 2004.

But not everyone is impressed by their public relations efforts: "They are all liars," mutters a young woman passing by a Karoubi meeting."