Poster Ban to Change Campaigning in Iran Vote

A0251072.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian politicians may find it tougher to reach out to voters in this month’s parliament election when campaigning started on Thursday because of a ban on posters bearing their photographs.

Such posters have been a typical campaign tactic in Iran where personalities not parties dominate elections. The onset of any poll usually leads to a blizzard of posters with portraits of candidates on buildings, street lamps and inside bazaars.

But parliament banned such posters with candidates’ photos for the March 14 vote, saying it was wasteful and led to an expensive post-election clean up.

As a result, political groups are expected to play a bigger role in promoting their list of candidates in the vote which is being seen as a test of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s popularity. It may indicate his chances for re-election in 2009.

There is no tradition of disciplined party membership or detailed party platforms in Iran but looser political coalitions have emerged, stringing banners up to promote their lists in Tehran where 30 of parliament’s 290 seats are up for grabs.

“Scientific management, Welfare society,” a conservative grouping, called the United Front, wrote in one banner.

The United Front is Iran’s biggest conservative coalition and is likely to dominate the race. It includes supporters and opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but analysts say it is the most pro-government of the three main groups contesting.

“A parliament familiar with people’s pain” and “A functional parliament,” read slogans on a banner of the Inclusive Front, another group which includes Ahmadinejad rivals like former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said on Wednesday around 4,500 candidates were qualified to run after a vetting process involving government committees and a supervisory Guardian Council that checks hopefuls meet religious and other criteria.

Campaigning officially started on Thursday.

Although groups may play a bigger role in large cities, analysts say in smaller towns and in provincial areas much will still depend on a candidate’s reputation and networking ability.

Some Iranian voters in Tehran welcomed the help coalitions give in helping them decide among the sea of candidates.

“I want to vote, but I do not know any of these candidates,” said Rahman Samimi, a 40-year-old government employee. “I have to vote for candidates of a group that has the best program.”

Abdollah Naseri, spokesman for Coalition of Reformist Groups, said groups like his would play a more prominent role.

“As you see three main coalitions they have banners without the names of the candidates and this year it will mainly be like this,” he told Reuters.

The reformists have been seeking a comeback after they were beaten strongly in the 2004 parliamentary polls by conservatives, who went on to back Ahmadinejad’s presidential bid.

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