POLITICS IN IRAN….Iran may be unclear on the concept when it comes to the substance of democracy, but they sure do have the trappings down pat. Here is the Guardian’s account of the campaign tactics adopted by Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, a candidate in next month’s presidential election:

The Qalibaf campaign is deploying focus groups, whereby groups of voters around the country are interviewed to identify their concerns and so shape policy choices. From these sessions, Mr Qalibaf’s strategists have compiled a list of 10 key priorities, including unemployment, inflation, social security and quality of life issues.

[Headquarters] is a seven-storey office block equipped with the latest computer technology in an upmarket neighbourhood of north Tehran. From here, strategists and policy wonks confer daily on how to market Mr Qalibaf, 43, to Iran’s vast army of young voters as a vigorous moderniser.

….Backed by campaign photographs, showing Mr Qalibaf ? alone among the mainstream candidates ? without a beard, his staff stay on-message by depicting their man as an adherent of globalisation, privatisation and smaller government who is willing, at least within limits, to build on the reformist agenda of the outgoing president, Mohammed Khatami.

You will be unsurprised to learn that behind the smiling, clean shaven face, Qalibaf is actually a religious hardliner who is running with the blessings of the Ayatollah. Maybe he can get Ralph Reed to do some consulting for him.