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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 13:18 GMT
Pim Fortuyn: The far-right Dutch maverick
Pim Fortuyn
Mr Fortuyn has broken a string of Dutch taboos
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By BBC News Online's Clare Murphy

Pim Fortuyn's fortunes had been on the rise.

In February, the maverick anti-Islam politician was sacked as leader of his own party, Livable Netherlands, after overstepping the mark with calls to scrap a constitutional clause banning discrimination.

I think 16 million Dutchmen are about enough - this is a full country

Pim Fortuyn

But the controversy, if anything, enhanced Mr Fortuyn's reputation. He won around one-third of the votes after standing as a candidate in municipal elections in the country's second largest city, Rotterdam.

And as the Netherlands looks to general elections in May, everything suggested that Mr Fortuyn and the list of candidates he planned to put forward could pick up enough seats in the country's 150-seat parliament to become a significant political force in their own right - and could even enter the government.

His anti-Muslim views, calls for an end to all immigration and pledges to come down hard on crime have hit a chord with voters despite the country's proud reputation for liberalism and religious tolerance that stretches back to the 16th Century.

Sexual politics

Mr Fortuyn however argued that it was liberalism and tolerance themselves that were in danger of being undermined by an influx of Muslim immigration.

The real problem is that other political parties are starting to see Mr Fortuyn's strategy as a vote winner and may start to follow suit

Edgar van Lokven
Amsterdam Migrants Centre
Openly gay, he raged against Islam, which does not accept homosexuality, and argued that Muslims failed to treat women as equal citizens.

Islam, he said, was therefore a "backward culture", a view which he has expounded at length in a book "Against the Islamisation of our Culture".

About 800,000 Muslims, mainly of Moroccan and Turkish descent, live in the Netherlands, accounting for around 5% of the population. The majority live in the country's two largest cities, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Mr Fortuyn wanted significantly to reduce the number of immigrants and asylum seekers who arrive in the Netherlands each year from a current 40,000 people to just 10,000 people "in no time at all".

"This is a full country," he said. "I think 16 million Dutchmen are about enough".


Mr Fortuyn appeared to have a particularly strong appeal amongst the young.

Nearly one half of 18-30 year-olds recently polled want to see zero Muslim immigration, and said they would be voting for Mr Fortuyn in May's ballots.

I won't vote for him, because I don't think he is a serious politician, but that does not mean I don't think he has a point

Even those who do not intend to vote for him said he had a certain attraction.

"He is the only politician who admits that there are problems with the multiculturalism of Dutch society and has stopped the issue of immigration being a taboo subject in politics," said Judith, a teacher, who lives in Maastricht.

"I won't vote for him, because I don't think he is a serious politician, but that does not mean I don't think he has a point."

Analysts say Mr Fortuyn had not only found support among voters who would traditionally veer to the far-right, but also among those fed up with the existing political landscape and centre-left government.

"Dutch politics is dominated by multi-party coalitions and too many bland compromises," said Andre Krouwel, professor of political science at the Free University of Amsterdam.

"Mr Fortuyn is a wake-up call for Dutch leaders. There is a large section of the electorate who don't feel represented on the national stage and are looking for a more radical answer to their problems."

But immigrant organisations are increasingly worried about the kinds of lessons that politicians will draw from the example of Mr Fortuyn.

"The real problem is that other political parties are starting to see Mr Fortuyn's strategy as a vote winner and may start to follow suit," said Edgar van Lokven of the Amsterdam Centre for Foreigners.

"Mr Fortuyn takes peoples' discontent and fears and erroneously links them with immigration and foreigners. Unfortunately some people fall for it."

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