Royal takes campaign to Paris suburb

27th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 26, 2007 (AFP) - Socialist Segolene Royal is taking her campaign for the French presidency to a poor town on the Paris outskirts where rioting began in late 2005 and set ablaze immigrant suburbs across the nation.

PARIS, Feb 26, 2007 (AFP) - Socialist Segolene Royal is taking her campaign for the French presidency to a poor town on the Paris outskirts where rioting began in late 2005 and set ablaze immigrant suburbs across the nation.

Royal on Tuesday will tour the housing projects of Clichy-sous-Bois and meet with an association set up after the riots to address the problems that led to the worst civil unrest in France in nearly half a century.

She is to sign a 105-point programme for change in the suburbs pieced together by the group AC Le Feu (No More Fire) to force candidates to confront such sensitive issues as discrimination, racism and the failure of integration.

The programme calls for creating a two-year training course for school drop-outs, offering jobs for parents to help troubled youth and a nationwide campaign against discrimination.

"The fact that she is signing this programme is a show of commitment," said AC Le Feu president Mohamed Mechmache. "It's a contract and she is bound."

It was in Clichy-sous-Bois, a collection of grimy high-rise apartment blocks on the northeast edge of Paris, that riots exploded after two teenage boys died from electrocution in a power station where they were hiding from police in October 2005.

Two police officers were placed under formal investigation this month for failing to assist the 17-year-old Zyed Benna and 15-year-old Bouna Traore and could face trial over the two deaths.

Some 15 months after the rioting in which 10,000 cars were torched and hundreds of buildings burned, the candidates for the April-May vote are making a trip to the suburbs a necessary stop on the campaign trail.

Centrist Francois Bayrou earlier this month toured a market in Mantes-la-Jolie where he deplored the "failed" policy of integration in the suburbs.

"The state is mega-present in places where all is well and mega-absent in places where it's going badly," said Bayrou.

But Nicolas Sarkozy, the frontrunner in the polls and candidate of the governing rightwing party, has yet to visit the Paris suburbs, site of the worst rioting.

It was under Sarkozy's watch as interior minister that the three weeks of rioting was brought to an end.

Critics blame him for inflaming tensions in the suburbs when he referred to young troublemakers as "racaille" (rabble) in the runup to the violence, a remark that has earned him a reputation as heartless.

The presidential campaign has prompted a rise in political activism in the suburbs with leaders of local associations reporting an increase in the number of young people registering to vote.

In Clichy-sous-Bois, there are 3,000 new voters on the list, according to Mechmache. "They have decided to stop being victims of politicians and instead choose politicians," he said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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