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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
Obituary: Pim Fortuyn
Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn struck a chord with dissatisfied Dutch voters
The death of Pim Fortuyn comes just nine days before Dutch national elections in which polls had predicted he would win enough seats to lead one of the country's largest parties.

Once written off by Dutch politicians and media alike, Fortuyn recently burst on to the political scene with a heady cocktail of policies which was finding favour right across the Netherlands.

This is a full country. I think 16 million Dutchmen are about enough

Pim Fortuyn
The 54-year-old sociology professor was a flamboyant character who combined custom-made Italian suits and a flashy lifestyle with hard-hitting anti-immigrant views.

Professor Pim, as he liked to be called, shocked the Dutch establishment in February with a call for the repeal of the first article of the constitution which forbids discrimination.

As a result he was sacked as leader of his own party, Livable Netherlands.

Image boost

But the controversy, if anything, enhanced Fortuyn's reputation, and that of his new party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn.

He went on to win around one-third of the votes after standing as a candidate in municipal elections in Rotterdam, the country's second largest city.

Polls suggested that in national elections due in May Fortuyn and his party were set to pick up enough seats in the country's 150-seat parliament to become a significant political force in their own right.

He won a third of votes when he stood in Rotterdam

Some polls predicted that they would garner as many as 26 seats - or 17% of the parliament.

The shaven-headed former academic and columnist was openly gay, distinguishing him from the bulk of Europe's far-right, traditionalist politicians.

Fortuyn's Rotterdam residence, christened "Casa di Pietro," was styled on an Italian villa and filled with precious artefacts which he loved to show off.

He lived there with his two small dogs called Kenneth and Carla, served by a butler, and boasted a chauffeur-driven car.

Anti-Islamic attacks

He used his sexuality as fuel for his fire against Islam, which - like many other religions - does not accept homosexuality.

He slammed Islam as a "backward culture" - a view which he expounded at length in a book called Against The Islamisation Of Our Culture.

Born in 1948 to a conservative Catholic family in a small town in the north-west of the country, Fortuyn went to Amsterdam in the 1970s to study sociology and later became a professor at the University of Groningen.

Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn was known for his love of expensive clothes

Over the last 10 years he made his name as a columnist and commentator, producing a number of articles and books on society and politics.

Fortuyn's anti-Muslim views, calls for an end to all immigration and pledges to come down hard on crime struck a chord with voters despite the country's celebrated reputation for liberalism and religious tolerance.

The Netherlands was the first country to legalise gay marriages, regulate prostitution, approve and control euthanasia, and tolerate the over-the-counter sale of marijuana.

Youth appeal

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

Anti-Fortuyn campaigners confront the politician
He provoked controversy wherever he went

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

He had 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 Fortuyn in May's ballots.

Even those who did not intend to vote for him agreed the maverick leader had a certain attraction.

Analysts said Fortuyn 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.

The BBC's Kirsty Lang
A profile of Pim Fortuyn
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