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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK
Dutch election results: You asked a political analyst
Dutch election
BBC correspondent Tim Franks put your question to Syp Wynia, political editor of the Dutch current affairs magazine Elsevier.

Click here to watch the forum.  

The party of the murdered anti-immigration politician, Pim Fortuyn, has gained more than 20 seats in the Dutch general election.

The results mark a humiliating defeat for the centre-left coalition, which had been in power for eight years.

What impact will this result have on the political landscape of Netherlands and Europe as a whole?


Transcript


Tim Franks:

We have an e-mail from Ola Saltin in Denmark. She wants to know why are we ruled by fear in Europe? Why is Holland which was such a fantastic flagship of integration and cohabitation succumbing to this tragic, dark and meaningless spiral downwards?

Well she obviously feels that last night's result was very bad news. Would you put it in those sorts of terms?


Syp Wynia:

No - there's no reason to be fearful. I think also the late Pim Fortuyn didn't raise fear. But the fact is that the immigrants in Holland are less integrated than a lot of people thought. Millions of Dutch people live in areas where a lot of immigrants live nowadays - that's one thing. The other thing is that the way Dutch government has dealt with the war against crime is not very effective in this country. So that's the second reason why the late Mr Fortuyn party had such a success during yesterday's general elections.


Tim Franks:

You clearly then don't see him as a xenophobic man or indeed his party as being xenophobic despite the fact it was portrayed that way by many in the international media. I am just interested in the Netherlands itself - was he portrayed at all in that way?


Syp Wynia:

I must say, especially the left wing parties tried to portray him in that way because they thought it was a solution to stop Mr Fortuyn. But he was never xenophobic - the only thing he said is that immigrants who are here should have a good future. So his theory was that immigration from Third World countries in this country is going so fast that integration is impossible. So his programme was to limit immigration and by the way it's quite mainstream in this country because also the probably coalition partners - the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party, have the same sort of programmes and said the same statements about that.


Tim Franks:

We also have an e-mail from Martin in England: When anyone question the leftist government's policies on immigration he is branded a racist by the media. But why is asking constructive, non-discriminatory questions racists?

You seem to be suggesting that perhaps that the political discourse in this country has moved on.


Syp Wynia:

Yes that's right. It was also, for 10 - 20 years, impossible to ask any questions about immigration and integration because you were labelled a racist. So this has, in my opinion, something to do with the fact that we are still not coping with colonialism, coping with what happened with the Jews in this country. So every discussion about foreigners, immigrants, people who are here or people who should come here is always in a sort of Second World War theme.


Tim Franks:

Even now that overshadows what people can say openly?


Syp Wynia:

It could be the advantage of what's happening now - that also the establishment parties and especially the left wing parties are pushed and some of them are saying the same thing - this means there could be more open debate - on facts and a lot more real.

A lot of people who voted for the late Fortuyn yesterday, live in areas where 10 years ago it was good comfortable living but whereas there is a lot of crime there nowadays. Not only because immigrants are sometimes more criminal than people from the country itself but also crime in general. Crime with drugs - in my theory - and it was not in the debate here - but the fact that Holland is so liberal on drugs, also creates crime. It could be that there will be a new debate on that.


Tim Franks:

Do you understand also why people are incredibly sensitive about the way in which is language is used? Because even if, as many people here in the Netherlands say, Pim Fortuyn was no racist, was no xenophobe and talking about immigration shouldn't be a taboo subject - that there are plenty of politicians in Europe who are trying to use the issue of immigration perhaps for racist or anti-Semitic ends.


Syp Wynia:

That's right and a lot of people in Holland fear that because there's a real difference between what the late Mr Fortuyn said and his roots and the fact that he was against violence. He had nothing to do with any Nazi party or fascists whatsoever. That's the difference between people like Mr Haider and some people of Mr Belusconi's government and Mr Le Pen because they all have their roots in Nazi times - Mr Fortuyn had nothing to do with that.


Tim Franks:

We have an interesting question from Vincent in Netherlands asking about this whole of issue of integration that you've mentioned and was that was key to what the LPF talked about. They said very strongly that some parts, particularly of the Muslim community, have failed to integrate and indeed it's a debate that's been awakened in Britain as well by our Europe Minister. Vincent asks whether you can pass a law compelling people to integrate and he asks if immigrants tend to integrate into society - can one generalise about that or are they more interested in preserving their own cultural values - are they mutually exclusive?


Syp Wynia:

In my opinion it is not the factor of culture that is so important but the factor of work. A lot of immigrants in this country don't have jobs and having a job also means being integrated in society because your job is in a society - that is a problem with a lot of immigrants in Holland. Of course we have a welfare state somewhere at the top of Europe and this welfare state gives people so much money there is no reason to start working. Most of those people would earn less money working than keeping their social welfare scheme. So in my opinion - and I'm not the only one who says this - it should be pushed that people get out of these benefits, out of these welfare systems and into jobs, and into the economy and into the real society.


Tim Franks:

Do you think that's really likely to be challenged though because it is such an entrenched model here. There are remarkable figures for the number of people who are on disability benefit in the Netherlands and there are many people who say, of course not all these people can be incapable of work, there must be some problem with the system but no one yet has really been able to tackle it.


Syp Wynia:

No because that's part of the critical thing about the Dutch establishment. So many people have their advantages with this so-called handicap system. There are about 1 million people now who are in this scheme but in fact they are unemployed - in other countries we would call them unemployed. So if you look at the total percentage of people who are in fact unemployed then we probably have a situation with 20% unemployed and the official statistics are only 2 or 3%.

The economy also needs a lot of new people - working people. We even import a lot of labour, every year - last year 30,000 people in this small country - came here to take part in the labour force but we have 1 million people who are able to work but don't work. So changing integration and immigration policy also means changing the welfare system.


Tim Franks:

We've looked very much at the people whom the LPF were targeting in their election campaign. Let's look at the late leader of the LPF himself. Enrico from the Netherlands compares the outpouring of public grief for Pim Fortuyn to the outpouring of public grief that there was for Princess Diana. He asks whether the myth-making surrounding Pim Fortuyn's rise and death reflects the gnawing need for a hero among people who are alienated from traditional institutions. How far do you think that that is the case?


Syp Wynia:

I think that's quite a good analysis. Of course television made Pim Fortuyn - Pim Fortuyn somehow made Dutch television because politics on Dutch television was boring. Usually people left the television set when politicians were on the show. When Pim Fortuyn came on the screen, the viewers doubled or tripled. So you can compare it somehow with icons like Princess Diana. The fact that hundreds of thousands of people were emotional about this death has something to do with the fact that he was a theatrical man too of course. He was a new man in the Dutch theatre and a lot of people who didn't want to vote for him, they felt an emptiness because he wasn't there anymore.


Tim Franks:

Which raises the question, in the wake of his death, can that interest that's been aroused in Dutch politics - the big turnout that there was in the election yesterday - can that interest be maintained?


Syp Wynia:

That's one of the main questions. He opened up Dutch politics. His anti-establishment role was probably more interesting than his other roles. A lot more people came to the polls yesterday than for past general elections and the big question is whether all those people who came to the polls during this election will come back another time - if not there will feel alienated again.


Tim Franks:

An e-mail from Brian in the USA and C Peters from the United Kingdom, asking if yesterday's result - in the fact the whole campaign - will have any wider implications for European politics. Do you think that, as you were talking about the issue of immigration, that that now will be explored perhaps more openly, more honestly - to some people - more dangerously in the rest of Europe?


Syp Wynia:

That could be because as said, I think Mr Fortuyn was quite a different person from Mr Haider, Mr Berlusconi and Mr Le Pen. But it's quite clear that there is a sort of movement, especially at election times, to the right or possibly even to the extreme right.

Talking about European politics, also politics of the European Union, it is also the same movement against Europe. It didn't get much publicity, but Mr Fortuyn was also very critical on Europe. I think what will happen in Holland is that the official policy the people of Mr Fortuyn, especially when they're in government, but also when they're not in government - their policy line will be more critical towards the European Union policies.


Tim Franks:

Do you think that that democratic deficit in Europe that's so often commented on, not just here but across Europe, that that can be addressed?


Syp Wynia:

We have in Europe a sort of consensus of people who try to address it but I think that there will be a movement all over Europe in the direction of the acknowledgement that in fact national politicians, that national governments should rule Europe and that people don't want European institutions with a non-democratic apparatus any more.


Key stories

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Fortuyn shooting

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16 May 02 | Talking Point
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