Politicians Try Rapping to Lure Young Voters

In the run-up to European elections this week, members of the European Parliament have tested their policies in a rap battle and joined in with the latest Internet craze—creating their own version of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” music video. The politicians’ version, which also features professional dancers and a nudist, is aimed at getting young people to vote.

The Party of European Socialists wants supporters to tweet “selfies” with its top candidate Martin Schulz, a bearded bespectacled German, coining the hashtag #schulzie. The Alliance of Liberals & Democrats in Europe promised a day with its top candidate, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, for the best “EU selfie.”

Meanwhile, in a separate effort, a Brussels youth group staged a fake online campaign calling for an increase in the voting age to 25.

Since the EU’s first parliamentary elections in 1979, turnout has been dropping off. In the most recent vote in 2009, just 43% of potential voters cast ballots. Of those under 25, a mere 29% turned up at the polls.

That’s why on a recent Wednesday night delegates from all four major parties decided to add another language to the institution’s 24 official ones—the language of hip hop.

“Some will laugh, some will make fun, but maybe some will think these people really tried to do something to convince us,” said Lara Comi, a 31-year-old lawmaker from the center-right European People’s Party who participated in the rap battle.

Just below the room where European Central Bank President Mario Draghi addresses the Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee, members of the European Parliament paired up with rappers who translated their ideas into rhymes.

“It’s like simultaneous interpreting,” said Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a Greek-German lawmaker who was about to take the stage for the free-market Alliance of Liberals & Democrats in Europe.

“Your hairstyle screams conservative, yeah,” began Mos Prob, 24, rapping for the Green Party, at Dekay, a 27-year-old woman who goes by one name, rapping for the EPP.

Dekay, who says she never cared much about the EU in the past, had done her research. “Everybody knows/ the EU needs to be stronger/ that’s why we need to create longer/ legislation/ so we can work the nation,” she rhymed.

It wasn’t your typical hip hop audience, or venue. The Parliament’s “Espace Yehudi Menuhin,” named for the violinist, is more often used for piano recitals and chamber-music concerts. Among the more than 600 attendees, pantsuits and button-up shirts far outweighed bandannas and baggy pants and the line for beer was made up of lobbyists along with parliamentary assistants and interns.

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