Reaching out to the People
Mass participation and populism were hallmarks of the 1979 revolution that toppled the monarchy, and were critical to Khomeini’s ability to consolidate state power during the early years of the Iran-Iraq war. This theme continued to be noticeable in many of the 2009 election posters for all candidates. Unsurprisingly, Ahmedinejad utilized populist rhetoric and symbols just as he had since his 2005 successful presidential campaign. His campaign team went so far as to rename him Mardomi-Nejad, meaning “cut from the people’s cloth.” In poster 1, which uses a photograph of a disabled child at one of his rallies, Ahmadinejad is represented as the protector of the oppressed and “downtrodden,” a time-honored theme of the Islamic revolution. The caption reads: “Fellow Citizens, I have come[to the fore]. You come, too…[on] the 22nd of Khordad[Election day of 2009]; We will vote for Ahmadinejad. Support Doctor Mahmoud Mardomi-Nejad.” Intriguingly, despite the very clear populist message, the supporters of the current president emphasized Ahmadinejad’s title of “doctor” in order to remind voters that he holds a PhD in engineering and has technical expertise. Additionally, the young woman in the photograph appears to be wearing makeup and her veil is more revealing than not, contradicting the idea that his politics exclusively target a religiously conservative strata of Iranian society.