Western suits, ties mark new style for Islamic Republic
TEHRAN, Feb 25 (AFP) - Western-style management qualifications and
suits and ties are taking over from Islamic beards and long prison records
under the shah as the way to appeal to voters as Iran goes to the polls
for its first ever municipal elections Friday.
In the capital one candidate for the city council has even earned the
nickname "Mr. Tie" for his audacity in plastering the streets
with pictures of himself wearing an item of clothing long scorned by the
Islamic authorities as an unacceptable legacy of the pro-western shah.
Just a few years ago the tie would have earned Sadeq Sameieh serious
problems with Iran's ubiquitous Islamic militias.
But now the cleanshaven, besuited image is a viable campaign strategy
as the daily problems of everyday life here make voters more interested
in a candidate's administrative abilities than in demonstrations of revolutionary
Sameieh, a wealthy British-educated publisher, promises voters in this
congested metropolis of well over 10 million that he will tackle the problems
of overcrowding and pollution and make the city a "beautiful, healthy,
prosperous and well-managed place to live."
"Contrary to the norm in other elections, most candidates emphasize
their professional and educational backgrounds instead of relying solely
on their revolutionary experience," commented the English-language
"Another difference between this election campaign and others is
that the code of dress no longer plays a determining role in a candidate's
success or failure.
"This social tolerance could be found only at the very early stages
of the revolution," the paper remarked. Even the most conservative
of Shiite Moslem clerics seem to have recognized the need to adopt a more
modern, people-friendly style to woo the voters.
Hojatoleslam Qodratollah Alikhani, a bearded, white-turbaned prelate,
enlisted footballers, women's associations and representatives of the capital's
ethnic minorities to join his campaign caravan as it toured the streets.
Alikhani promised not a holier or more Islamic capital, but a "fresher,
more beautiful" one.
Another conservative candidate's platform reflected the voters' new
priorities even more starkly.
Top of Afzal Mussavi's list of promises for the capital came "150
kilometres (100 miles) of new streets and motorways," last came "100
new mosques and prayer halls."
The clergy still dominates the lists of candidates, both reformist
The head of the main reformist list in the capital, Vice President
Abdollah Nuri, is a senior cleric and former close aide of revolutionary
leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
High on his list is former US hostage taker Ibrahim Asqarzadeh, now
middle-aged and, like many of Iran's radicals of the 1980s, a reformist
supporter of moderate President Mohammed Khatami.
The conservative list is headed by Ali Kamushi, head of the powerful
Chamber of Commerce and an influential member of the Tehran bazaar, a stronghold
But, as Iran News observed, whether the candidates are conservative,
reformist or independent, the "campaigning and advertising have changed
"Some candidates use the popularity of high clerics and other
political, cultural and even sports figures to enhance their own among
voters," the paper observed.
"One candidate used caricatures in promoting his candidacy which
was like a breath of fresh air compared to the suffocating traditional