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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 05:25 GMT 06:25 UK
'An electoral revolution'
Pim Fortuyn List party candidate Marianne Kromme applauds her party's results
Pim Fortuyn's supporters say consensus is dead
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By Laurence Peter
BBC News Online correspondent in Rotterdam

For a country normally identified with stability and tranquility, the Netherlands was unusually agitated about the prospect of political change on election night.

As the big swing to the Christian Democrats became clear, along with the strong vote for the anti-immigration List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), Rotterdam city hall was buzzing with excitement.

A large crowd of journalists, local politicians and students of politics watched a live television feed from The Hague on big screens in the ornate hall.

Fortuyn may have injected new life into a tired political system, but a common view on the streets of Rotterdam is that the establishment is well entrenched

Rotterdam was where Pim Fortuyn made his name and where, since his murder, he has acquired almost legendary status.

It remains his party's stronghold - even though the LPF is now struggling to find leaders who can represent it in the next government.

The LPF came first in Rotterdam with nearly 30% of the votes, although nationally it came second after the Christian Democrats.

One of the groups behind the LPF - Leefbar Rotterdam - expressed satisfaction and dismissed speculation that the party, packed with political novices, would be outsmarted by the well-established parties in parliament.

Its leader, Rolf Soerensen, told BBC News Online that he had "tears of anger and sadness" in his eyes as he voted in the week after Mr Fortuyn's death.

"I imagine how it could have been with Pim Fortuyn... But we have to go on."

He described the result as "an electoral revolution" and voiced confidence that the LPF would find the sort of people Mr Fortuyn wanted as ministers - "from the business class, who can manage and who have a feeling for others".

Rabella de Faria, a prominent figure in Leefbar Rotterdam who was voted Dutch businesswoman of the year in 2001, said the LPF had "gone from zero to 26 (seats in parliament) - that's something which has never been done before in Holland - we're really very proud".

Fears of instability

Others were less sanguine about the LPF's future.

Laurens de Vrijer, a 22-year-old student who voted for the Christian Democrats, said the LPF consisted of "individuals - good people experienced in welfare and the economy, but there is no unity in the party".

Another Christian Democrat supporter, Amerik Klapwyk, said the first year of the new coalition was likely to be "unstable" or even "very chaotic".

The Christian Democrat leader in Rotterdam, Sjaak van der Tak, said a coalition could be formed with the Mr Fortuyn's party, but he stressed the need for the LPF to put forward "stable" people for senior jobs.

Mr Fortuyn may have injected new life into a tired political system, but a common view on the streets of Rotterdam is that the establishment is well entrenched after seemingly endless coalitions.

"I've never seen any big changes here - it seems like whatever happens things stay the same," said Karin Mudde, 33, who voted for the leftist Democrats 66 party.

Hans, a teacher who voted for the small Christian Union party, agreed that there would be "no big change in Dutch politics". He said he was happy that the Christian Democrats did well and condemned Fortuyn's views as "anti-social".

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