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French Rappers Urge Youth in Suburbs to Vote

Rapper Rost, who grew up in a poor part of Paris, has been singing for years about the frustrations of unemployed youngsters with few opportunities. This year, he took to the road traveling around France, urging these young people in the suburbs to sign up to vote. It's a huge population that could make a big difference in the outcome. For VOA, Anita Elash reports from Paris.

Problems facing people in the mostly-immigrant suburbs in France came to the world's attention 18 months ago, when thousands of young people rioted over the death of two teenagers who was being chased by police. The riots ended when the government ordered curfews and promised to address problems of unemployment and discrimination.

Most people in the suburbs say their situation still hasn't improved. But only a small fraction of immigrants in the suburbs vote. So the rap singer Rost says he decided the best avenue for change was to convince people to cast a ballot in next month's presidential election.

For the last year, he's been driving around France visiting disadvantaged neighorhoods. He says he discovered people don't vote because they feel no politician represents them.

People want politicians they can identify with because they are like them, he says. They want to know politicians understand their situation because they have had the same experience, and not just because they've visited the suburbs for a few days.

This week, Rost published a guidebook for voters, based on nearly 30,000 questions from people in the suburbs. The book outlines each candidate's platform, and makes 15 suggestions for how the new president can help solve problems in the suburbs.

The government still has not said how many suburban residents have registered to vote. But Rost said he expects a huge turnout. And he said voters expect whoever is elected will respond to their concerns.

He says that according to the French constitution, insurrection becomes legitimate if the rights of the people are not respected. So if they do nothing for us, there will come a time when insurrection will become legitimate.

The first round of voting is on April 22.