Pim Fortuyn - Democracy costs a Fortuyn

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World’s media described him as a “Hard Right Winger”, “The Dutch Le Pen”, “Anti-Muslin” and “Racist”. They were talking about the same person that the Dutch endeared as he would appear on every talk show, always dressed to the nice with his sharp wit at hand. This was the same person the country had enjoyed for ten years as a writer of many political books and weekly columns always aimed squarely at exposing the underbelly of Dutch politics, which is mostly played out behind closed doors in the Hague. All Dutch know it, but he wasn’t afraid to say it. Pim Fortuyn.

Wilhelmus Simon Petrus Fortuyn was born on February 19th 1948, studied sociology in Amsterdam, and later worked as a lecturer at the Nijenrode Institute and Groningen University. In 1988 he moved to Rotterdam, becoming director of an organisation administering student transport cards. From 1991 to 1995 he was a professor at Erasmus University, holding the Albeda professorship in public service wage negotiation. When he left that position he made a career of public speaking and writing books and press columns, gradually became involved in politics.

Background Dutch Politics
Central government is concentrated in and around The Hague. The parliament buildings in the city centre are the nerve-centre of Dutch political life. The directly elected House of Representatives and indirectly elected Senate together constitute the legislative assembly or parliament. The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy, and parliament therefore has the last word. The 150 seats in the House are allocated on the basis of an 'electoral quota': the total number of votes cast divided by the number of seats available (150). The number of votes cast for each party is divided by the electoral quota and the result determines the number of seats initially allocated to that party. Current popular Dutch parties are CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal), VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), PvdA (Labour Party) and D66 (Democrats 66).
Dutch politics has always been a very moderate and consensual affair. Proportional representation means that every government is a coalition. The most radical event in Dutch politics in the last fifty years was the 1992 creation of a government that did not include the Christian Democrats. Even then, the ruling Purple Coalition – made up of the free-market Liberal Party, the centrist Social Democrats, and the centre left Labour Party – still consulted the opposition Christian Democrats and avoided policies that might upset them too much. Consensus is valued as an important policy goal in its own right.

The Truth About Pim Fortuyn
In 1997 Fortuyn published the controversial book titled “Against the Islamisation of Our Culture - Dutch Identity as a Fundamental” . In this book he describes the problems of integration and a multicultural society, which brought about many mixed responses. The core of Fortuyns argue is that the culture of the Islam is the total opposite of our values and standards of the modern Western society. He pleads for a powerful dialogue between both cultures to reach mutual understanding. With the word as only weapon.
Then came September 11th. Not surprisingly, the reaction in the Netherlands was extremely violent compared to neighbouring countries. Dozens of mosques and asylum centres were attacked. All foreigners were expected to publicly denounce Bin Laden, fundamentalism or even the islam as a whole. Fortuyn actualised and re-published the book (the title of it became “The Islamisation of Our Culture”) and added the extended critical reaction of imam Abdullah R.F. Haselhoef (1968). The message of the book became very interesting regarding the current situation if it wasn’t already and thus Fortuyn decided to join politics after writing the first version.

On November 20th 2001, he was chosen as new party leader of “Leefbaar (liveable) Nederland” (LN) for the House of Representatives elections of May 15th 2002. Fortuyn beat the other 12 candidates by being voted at 394 of the 445 times in total. According to the brand-new party leader it is time for openness: “It fulfils me with pleasure, I am extremely grateful, but it is also a tough topic. We want our politics being handled with another way. The windows of the back rooms must be opened. We have to give back the country to the rightful owners!” January 20th 2002, he also becomes party leader of “Leefbaar Rotterdam” (LR) and during the municipal council elections of March 6th the party obtained about 35% of the seats, making it the largest faction in the council of the second city of the Netherlands.
A national newspaper (“the Volkskrant”) published a controversial article on February 9th; an interview with Pim Fortuyn which is now known as being very notorious. In this article he claims things as “I allow less than 10 thousand asylum seekers to enter our country, preferably zero. I think 16 million Dutch is enough. We live in a full country.” and “I don't hate Islam. I consider it a backwards culture. I have travelled much in the world. And wherever Islam rules, it's terrible. All the hypocrisy. It's a bit like those old Reformed Protestants. The Reformed lie all the time. And why is that? Because they have norms and values that are so high that you can't humanly maintain them. You also see that in Muslim culture. Look at the Netherlands. In what land could a leader of such a large movement as mine be openly homosexual? It's fantastic that that's possible. That's something that we can be proud of. And I want to keep it that way.” .
Fortuyn was openly gay and it does seem clear that many Muslim immigrants come from historically sexist and homophobic regions such as Morocco, Turkey and Indonesia, bringing their cultural views with them. Muslim Imams in Rotterdam have repeatedly denounced gays as immoral. Rotterdam Imam El Moumni said on Dutch television that homosexuality is “a disease that threatens society”.
He guaranteed that if he became part of the next government, he would obtain an exceptionally restrictive immigration policy. He also said that he considered article 7 of the constitution, which asserts freedom of speech, more important then article 1, which forbids discrimination. However he distanced himself from Hans Janmaat of the Center Party, who in the 1980s wanted to remove all foreigners from the country and was repeatedly prosecuted for discrimination and hate speech. Fortuyn said that everybody who was already in the Netherlands would be able to stay, with the exception of illegal immigrants from the Netherlands Antilles (the Volkskrant pointed out that they had the Dutch nationality and were in the country legally). He said that he rejected all violence and had nothing against immigrants as a group, but would not allow any Muslims to enter the country if it was legally possible.
Because of this newspaper article Fortuyn got thrown out of the party LN on the same day it was published. The reason for this is that he wasn’t allowed to say the things that he said: the topic of the failing asylum and foreigners policy wasn’t a part of the party program of LN. The number of seats in weekly polls (22 when Fortuyn was still there) went done very quick when he left and they ended up with only 2 seats after the elections.
Immediately after this event he started to organise his own party and two days later, on February 11th, LPF was born: List Pim Fortuyn. The new party would have allowed him to take part in the May 15th parliamentary elections. He published the book “The Mess of Eight Years Purple” that would be used as guideline in the party. Fortuyn presented it as being the first election programme in book form. In the book he criticised “Purple”: the coalition of VVD, PvdA and D66 that was in charge for the last 8 years. “I tell you, all the money is spent on higher wages and more bureaucracy” . He explained what he would change and do better and he talked about topics like for example healthcare, security, education and the immigration policy of the Netherlands.

On March 21st the party announced its list of candidates, the second person on the list was Joao Varela, a 27 year old black cosmetics executive from Cape Verde, who was criticised as a “token immigrant”. Together with all the other different candidates on the list this showed that Fortuyn wasn’t a racist as he was called by many people, mostly outside of the Netherlands. Most of the candidates had no previous political background but that didn’t matter because Fortuyn was their leader and front man.
The party's main political issues were:
- tougher action against immigrants who did not assimilate into Dutch culture
- stronger measures to fight crime
- less bureaucracy in government
- reduction of teacher shortages in schools
- shortening of waiting lists for hospital treatment
The immigration issue caused heated debates all over. Fortuyn was accused of being a far-right racist, an accusation he vehemently denied. He didn’t want to deport immigrants already in the country, nor closing all borders, though he did wanted to set an immigration quota that prohibited Muslims from entering the country. But Fortuyn was a strong debater. He was a sharp critic of the ruling government and did not avoid making personal attacks.
Despite being such a political newcomer, he was gaining support fast. Political polls suggested that it was very likely for Fortuyn to achieve a major victory May 15th and to be the new prime minister of the Netherlands. In interviews he said: “I’m going for the highest possible. I will arrange politics into what they are supposed to be, and where is a better place to do that than from the turret ?!”

Then, on May 6th, at age 54, he was killed by a gunman with bullets hitting him twice in the forehead, twice in the back and once in the neck. The attack took place in a carpark outside a radio studio in Hilversum where he had just given an interview. This happened 9 days before the elections. The attacker was pursued by witnesses and was arrested by the police shortly afterwards, still in possession of the gun, identified later as Volkert van der Graaf. The assassination called out many reactions of everyone; “It is unbelievable, whatever motivated the killer. We only know of this kind of tragedy in far off dictatorial countries. Not in our own country.”. People were shocked and called it “our September 11th” and said “The bullet came from the left.” referring to all the left-wing people that were against Fortuyn.
The Dutch prime minister at that time, Wim Kok, considered a postponement of the elections because he feared public disorder but after consulting other politicians, he decided that the ballot should go ahead as planned. He said that democracy would not be dictated by violence. LPF said that their founder loved electoral democracy and would not have wanted the elections delayed. The only thing that changed was that the party leaders had agreed not to do any more campaigning between then and May 15th, of respect for Fortuyn.

Soccer-like Crowds
Tens of thousands of mourners cheered as the white coffin of Fortuyn was carried out of the Roman Catholic cathedral of Rotterdam, where his funeral mass was held: a religious service conducted by the Bishop of Rotterdam. Thousands of people raised their hands in the air, chanting “Pim Fortuyn, Pim Fortuyn” and singing “You'll Never Walk Alone” a support song for the city’s soccer team Feyenoord where he was a big fan of. After the funeral mass in Rotterdam his coffin was taken to the town of Driehuis-Westerveld for a funeral service at the family tomb. He was interred permanently six weeks later on July 20th at Provesano in the province of Pordenone in Italy, where he had his holiday home.

The Failure of LPF
The elections were coming closer and LPF had lost its leader, apart from deciding on a new leader, the party also had to find ministers to enter government, if it would be invited to join a coalition cabinet led by the Christian Democrats. Though Fortuyn wasn’t there anymore, still many people believed in his ideas and the fact that they didn’t know anything about the other candidates didn’t stop them from voting on LPF and Fortuyn in particular May 15th. The party front-runner was actually still running because candidates who die just before elections can no longer be removed from the list. But the instability of the party was very clear and therefor many Dutch changed their votes to the party of CDA. It is a matter of debate how many voters based their choice on political conviction and how many voted for the LPF because its leader had been murdered; many voters gave one or both reasons.

Marten Fortuyn, the brother of Pim, said it would be better for LPF to disband because it was possible that the Netherlands would become ungovernable after the election, because an enormous number of people will vote for LPF for emotional reasons: “My personal view is that it would be wiser for the party to close down before the election. This would give a substantial signal to the other political parties, as they would have to take on some of Pim's legacy themselves.” He admitted that he had no influence on the party's executive, nor was he a member of the party. But he said that people must realise that “Pim was the party and the party was Pim”.

Political Party Results 1998 Polls 2002 Results 2002
CDA 29 35 43
LPF 00 24 26
VVD 38 25 23
PvdA 45 26 23
GL 11 13 11
SP 05 08 09
D66 14 09 07
CU 05 05 04
SGP 03 02 02
LN 00 03 02

The elections proved a great success for the LPF. They won 26 seats out of 150, in one stroke becoming the second largest party in the parliament. Mat Herben was chosen to be the new party leader. Together with the CDA (christian democrats) and the VVD (liberals) the party formed part of the governing coalition, supplying several members of Balkenende's cabinet.
In the end it is obvious that CDA took much advantage of Fortuyn’s death as the other party leaders were accused for the hearted against Fortuyn because they had said all kinds of bad things in interviews about Fortuyn when he was still alive.

Chaos started the day the cabinet was installed; only nine hours after the queen had sworn in the cabinet members, vice minister Philomena Bijlhout of LPF had to resign because a journalist showed her a photograph of her in a militia of Desi Bouterse during the notorious Suriname “December murders” in 1982. Continuous scandals within the LPF party as a whole, within the LPF parliament faction, between LPF ministers and high-ranking government officials and between LPF officials and the press were almost daily news for two months. The LPF lost two seats in parliament when Winnie de Jong and Cor Eberhard left the party and started a new faction, after they accused the party of lack of internal democracy. Mat Herben was replaced by Harry Wijnschenk as parliamentary faction leader. In the few weeks that Wijnschenk presided things got out of hand even further. Herben was reinstated the day before the cabinet fell. On October 16th, after only 86 days, the new government fell, not because of disagreement over political issues, but because the CDA and VVD faction leaders found the LPF to be a very unstable partner. The government's resignation makes CDA prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende's government the shortest lived in the Netherlands since World War II.
A political poll, held the day before the cabinet fell, showed that the popular support for the LPF had vanished. If new elections would be held the LPF would lose 23 of its original 26 seats in parliament, according to the poll. Mat Herben led the party to the elections of January 22nd 2003. During the campaign, the party recuperated slightly from a low point in the polls of only two seats, and ended up with 8 seats.

Endless Silence Of Murderer
Volkert van der Graaf is the murderer of Pim Fortuyn, though he didn’t confess until March 27th, 2003. He said that he planned it for some time beforehand and that nobody else was involved in the plans or knew about them. From May 6th 2002, until that day he was kept in solitary confinement and monitored via video camera in a cell that was lighted 24 hours a day. Dutch prison authorities said they had taken such measures because they were afraid Van der Graaf would try to commit suicide. He was refused access to newspapers and television, could not receive visitors or use the telephone. He could only speak to his lawyers, the police and justice officials. The animal rights activist himself went on hunger strike to protest is prison conditions.
All that time the Dutch were asking themselves why he committed that murder. According to the prosecutor Van der Graaf had said that “he saw in Fortuyn an increasing danger to, in particular, vulnerable sections of society”. Van der Graaf said “Fortuyn expressed what were stigmatizing political ideas and he threatened to seize huge political power, according to prosecutors” and that he “saw no other way he could stop that danger than to kill Fortuyn”. Van der Graaf then underwent psychiatric tests ahead of the trial planned for April 14th 2003.
He told the court that he was not a violent man, which was a bit odd given that police found dozens of condoms filled with explosives and a timer device in the attic of his home. Van der Graaf maintains he was simply fascinated by explosives and never intended to use them. A psychiatrist who examined him testified that he was sane, but had an obsessive compulsive disorder that manifested itself in “perfectionism and a rigid morality”. Van der Graaf's conviction at his trial was a foregone conclusion, with the only remaining issue being the length of his sentence.

Prosecutors had been demanding a life sentence, and the court has been widely accused of being too soft: Van der Graaf was convicted and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. Critics have also pointed out that criminals in the Netherlands often serve only two thirds of their sentence, so Van der Graaf could be free in 11 years, having already spent a year awaiting trial. Interior Minister Johan Remkes, of the liberal VVD party, said: “I was somewhat surprised by the sentence, and that's an understatement”.

Reconstruction May 6th
Van der Graaf purchased his weapons illegally; a semi-automatic pistol with 9mm cartridges. The details of the murder emerged later; he planned the attack using information obtained from the Internet. In his car were found printouts of a map of the scene of the crime and schedules of Fortuyn's appearances. At his home was found two boxes of cartridges with 7 missing, the exact number loaded in his gun. The attack has been described as the work of a single person, an amateur shooter who used a relatively simple plan and didn't prepare a good escape route.
On the day of the murder, he attended work in the morning, taking with him a backpack containing the gun, a pair of latex gloves, a baseball cap and a pair of dark glasses. At the end of the morning he said he was taking the afternoon off on account of the beautiful weather. He drove towards Hilversum, knowing that Fortuyn was due to be interviewed in the radio studio of 3FM in the Mediapark. During the trip he stopped several times, among other things to purchase a shaver to remove his stubble, which together with the cap and glasses would disguise his appearance, while the gloves would avoid leaving fingerprints. However the shaver did not work.
He had never visited the Mediapark, relying on a map and a couple of photos to find his way in to the park on foot and to the building where Fortuyn's interview was held. Recognising Fortuyn's Daimler in the car park, he hid in some nearby bushes, burying the gun which was in a plastic bag in a shallow trough in case he was discovered. He could hear fragments of Fortuyn's interview from a speaker on the outside of the building. He waited there for about two hours.
Fortuyn emerged from the building in the company of several others. Van der Graaf walked in the direction of Fortuyn, passed by him, then turned and opened fire. He said that he aimed for his back to avoid the chance that Fortuyn would duck away, or that a bullet would hit somebody else by mistake. He held the gun in both hands, still with the plastic bag around it, less than 1.5 metres from Fortuyn, hitting him in the back and head five times then firing a sixth shot that missed.

He ran off, but Fortuyn's chauffeur took up the chase. Two employees from a different building of the Mediapark later joined in. During the chase Van der Graaf threatened them with his gun. They left the grounds of the Mediapark onto a public road, and upon reaching a Texaco petrol station, Van der Graaf gave up when police emerging from their car pointed their pistols at him.

At Your Service
The charismatic Fortuyn anticipated on dissatisfaction and he brought his political ideas and views along, probably this is the reason why so many people supported him and still do. Fortuyn said: “Politics is also a play; a performance. The people want to hear and story and then go to sleep.” The media hyped him and his party and with their uncritical attitude they contributed to his popularity. LPF’s campaign was for 95% based on free publicity of the media who was very eager to bring him up in the spotlights. Papers did anything for an interview with Fortuyn so that their newspaper would be quoted, which was good for commerce.
Fortuyn called out things that all Dutch thought and wanted to hear. Problems in the Netherlands were growing fast and everyone knew that it was time for change, and there he was: “our rescuer”. He jumped in politics at the very right moment where people like him were very much needed. Fortuyn saw that a rigorous change was in its place and he took that heavy responsibility on his back, totally devoted to his native country. He wasn’t afraid to walk ahead of things but left many people drowned in misunderstanding because of his futuristic and revolutionary views. These mixed feelings cost him his dream of becoming prime minister of the Netherlands.

The commonest remark was that he spoke the unspeakable, broke taboos, voiced ordinary people's concerns which mainstream politicians swept under the carpet. A political editor at Radio Netherlands said: “Now everybody's trying to learn the lesson of Pim Fortuyn: Don’t speak in difficult political jargon, try to speak simply and naturally so that everybody can understand what you mean, and do not be afraid of saying things that might not be popular”.

In one sense then Fortuyn was a conservative, trying to preserve Dutch customs, but the particular customs he had in mind were not the ones usually associated with the political right. His success was brief and brilliant, he was a spectacular loner and not short of courage. He knew the dangers to himself, but said he could not afford the cost of a round-the-clock bodyguard.
Fortuyn was very human; “a populist”. His confidence was as superb as his manners, his house and his way of dressing; that gentleman style was very typical for him. He kept his beautiful house in Rotterdam, even though it had become surrounded by housing estates where immigrants lived. Other than several other politicians that moved from where they lived because their neighbours became too “dark” though they were pro-immigration in their political programmes.
He didn’t fit into the archetype of an extreme right-winger at all: he avowed his homosexuality and didn’t have any problems with foreigners or whatsoever. Former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somalian refugee and VVD candidate. She caused a furore a few months ago when she, like Fortuyn, said Islam was a backward religion; “We really have to change integration policy and this time we mean it”.
Since the rise of Fortuyn, the major parties have not just toughened their stance on immigration: some seem to have adopted his ideas. As LPF stated when they begun: “We need a new vision on our society, not just a list with what we want to have changed”.
This shows that Fortuyn didn’t die for nothing. Democracy in the Netherlands has still a very long way to go but Fortuyn laid the first paving bricks. We will never know what it would have been like if he was still alive but probably he is watching us up there and criticizing everything as always. And as the joke goes that when Fortuyn enters heaven and God asks him what he believes in; Fortuyn replies: “I believe you’re in my place”.

For my research for this extended essay I used Fortuyn’s books, newspaper and magazine articles and the Internet. Most of all the quotes are translated by me, mistakes reserved. No parts of this essay are copied from an existing text, they are either written by me or translated from Dutch.
I also tried to be as objective as I could, in order to give a clear view of Pim Fortuyn and everything that he did.




Many years have passed, still the legacy lives. Pim Fortuyn was a visionary, who combined pragmatism and new ideas. I support very much his ideas about immigration. But I have also read, that he wasn't that much for environment and animal-rights issues. I don't know what the truth is, like did he advocate the fur-farming. At least he loved his dogs, so he must have somekind of animal-lover. I am.

Volkert van der Graaf was an animal-rights activist, supposed to be a leftist one because he "defended" the muslim population. Actually quite a conflict, muslims usually don't care for animal-rights. Or did van der Graaf just fake? Perhaps the real reason was the alleged pro-fur-farming of Fortuyn? Perhaps protecting people involved with the assasination? This article says, that van der Graaf wasn't against the ideas of Fortuyn's immigration plolicies:

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