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Pim Fortuyn, 4 May 2002, two days before his assassination (Photo: Roy Beusker)
|Born||Wilhelmus Simon Petrus Fortuijn
19 February 1948
|Died||6 May 2002
|Cause of death||Assassinated|
|Alma mater||Vrije Universiteit
University of Groningen
|Occupation||Politician, civil servant, sociologist, author, columnist, professor|
|Known for||Assassination during Dutch Election of 2002|
|Title||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Political party||Labour Party (1974–1989)
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (mid 90s)
Livable Netherlands (2001–2002)
Pim Fortuyn List (2002)
Wilhelmus Simon Petrus Fortuijn, known as Pim Fortuyn (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈpɪm fɔrˈtœyn]; 19 February 1948 – 6 May 2002), was a Dutch politician, civil servant, sociologist, author and professor who formed his own party, Pim Fortuyn List (Lijst Pim Fortuyn or LPF) in 2002.
Fortuyn provoked controversy with his stated views about multiculturalism, immigration and Islam in the Netherlands. He called Islam "a backward culture", and said that if it were legally possible he would close the borders for Muslim immigrants. He was labelled a far-right populist by his opponents and in the media, but he fiercely rejected this label and explicitly distanced himself from "far-right" politicians such as the Belgian Filip Dewinter, the Austrian Jörg Haider, or Frenchman Jean-Marie Le Pen whenever compared to them. While Fortuyn compared his own politics to centre-right politicians such as Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, he also admired former Dutch Prime Minister Joop den Uyl, a social democrat, and former Democratic U.S. president John F. Kennedy. Fortuyn however repeatedly described himself and LPF's ideology as pragmatism and not populism. Fortuyn was openly homosexual.
Fortuyn was assassinated during the 2002 Dutch national election campaign by Volkert van der Graaf. In court at his trial, Van der Graaf said he murdered Fortuyn to stop him from exploiting Muslims as "scapegoats" and targeting "the weak members of society" in seeking political power.
Fortuyn was born on 19 February 1948 in Driehuis, as the third child to a Catholic family. In 1967 he began to study sociology at the University of Amsterdam but transferred after a few months to the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. In 1971 he ended his study with the Academic degree Doctorandus. In 1981 he received a doctorate in sociology at the University of Groningen as a Doctor of Philosophy.
Fortuyn worked as a lecturer at the Nyenrode Business Universiteit and as an associate professor at the University of Groningen, where he taught Marxist sociology. He was a confessed Marxist at the time. Later, he joined the Labour Party.
In 1989 Fortuyn became director of a government organisation administering student transport cards. In 1990 he moved to Rotterdam. From 1991 to 1995, he was an extraordinary professor at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, appointed to the Albeda-chair in "employment conditions in public service".
When his contract ended, he made a career of public speaking and writing books and press columns, gradually becoming involved in politics. Fortuyn was openly gay, and said in a 2002 interview that he was Catholic.
In 1992 Fortuyn wrote "Aan het volk van Nederland" (To the people of the Netherlands), declaring he was the successor to the charismatic but controversial 18th-century Dutch politician Joan van der Capellen tot den Pol. A one-time communist and former member of the social-democratic Labour Party, Fortuyn was elected "lijsttrekker" of the newly formed Livable Netherlands party by a large majority on 26 November 2001, prior to the Dutch general election of 2002.
On 9 February 2002, he was interviewed by the Volkskrant, a Dutch newspaper (see below). His statements were considered so controversial that the party dismissed him as lijsttrekker the next day. Fortuyn had said that he favoured putting an end to Muslim immigration, if possible. Having been rejected by Livable Netherlands, Fortuyn founded his own party LPF (Pim Fortuyn List) on 11 February 2002. Many Livable Netherlands supporters transferred their support to the new party.
As lijsttrekker for the Livable Rotterdam party, a local issues party, he achieved a major victory in the Rotterdam district council elections in early March 2002. The new party won about 36% of the seats, making it the largest party in the council. For the first time since the Second World War, the Labour Party was out of power in Rotterdam.
Fortuyn's victory made him the subject of hundreds of interviews during the next three months, and he made many statements about his political ideology. In March he released his book The Mess of Eight Purple Years (De puinhopen van acht jaar paars), which he used as his political agenda for the upcoming general election. Purple is the colour to indicate a coalition government consisting of left parties (red) and conservative-liberal parties (blue). The Netherlands had been governed by such a coalition for eight years at that time.
On 6 May 2002, at age 54, Fortuyn was assassinated in Hilversum, North Holland, by Volkert van der Graaf. The attack took place in a parking lot outside a radio studio where Fortuyn had just given an interview. This was nine days before the general election, for which he was running. The attacker was pursued by Hans Smolders, Fortuyn's driver, and was arrested by the police shortly afterward, still in possession of a handgun. Months later, Van der Graaf confessed in court to the Dutch first modern-age political assassination (excluding WW II events). He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The assassination shocked many residents of the Netherlands and highlighted the cultural clashes within the country. Politicians from all parties suspended campaigning. After consultation with LPF, the government decided not to postpone the elections. As Dutch law did not permit modifying the ballots, Fortuyn became a posthumous candidate. The LPF made an unprecedented debut in the House of Representatives by winning 26 seats (17% of the 150 seats in the house). The LPF joined a cabinet with the Christian Democratic Appeal and the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, but conflicts in the rudderless LPF quickly collapsed the cabinet, forcing new elections. By the following year, the party had lost support, winning only eight seats in the 2003 elections. It won no seats in the 2006 elections, by which time the Party for Freedom, led by Geert Wilders, had emerged as a successor.
During the last months of his life, Fortuyn had become closer to the Catholic Church. To the surprise of many commentators and Dutch TV hosts, Fortuyn insisted on Fr. Louis Berger, a parish priest from The Hague, accompanying him in some of his last TV appearances. According to the New York Times, Berger had become his "friend and confessor" during the last weeks of his life.
In August 2001, Fortuyn was quoted in the Rotterdams Dagblad newspaper saying, "I am also in favour of a cold war with Islam. I see Islam as an extraordinary threat, as a hostile religion." In the TV program, Business class, Fortuyn said that Muslims in the Netherlands did not accept Dutch society. He appeared on the program several times. It was moderated by his friend Harry Mens. Since his death, commentators have suggested Fortuyn's words were interpreted rather harshly, if not wrongly. For instance, he said that Muslims in the Netherlands needed to accept living together with the Dutch, and that if this was unacceptable for them, then they were free to leave. His concluding words in the TV program were "...I want to live together with the Muslim people, but it takes two to tango."
On 9 February 2002, additional statements made by him were carried in the Volkskrant. He said that the Netherlands, with a population of 16 million, had enough inhabitants, and the practice of allowing as many as 40,000 asylum-seekers into the country each year had to be stopped. (This figure was higher than the actual numbers, and immigrants were decreasing at the time.). He claimed that if he became part of the next government, he would pursue a restrictive immigration policy while also granting citizenship to a large group of illegal immigrants.
He said that he did not intend to "unload our Moroccan hooligans" onto the Moroccan King Hassan. Hassan had died three years earlier. He considered Article 7 of the constitution, which asserts freedom of speech, of more importance than Article 1, which forbids discrimination on the basis of religion, life principles, political inclination, race, or sexual preference. Fortuyn distanced himself from Hans Janmaat of the Centrum Democraten, who in the 1980s wanted to remove all foreigners from the country and was repeatedly convicted for discrimination and hate speech.
Fortuyn proposed that all people who already resided in the Netherlands would be able to stay, but he emphasized the need of the immigrants to adopt Dutch society's consensus on human rights as their own. He said "If it were legally possible, I'd say no more Muslims will get in here", claiming that the influx of Muslims would threaten freedoms in the liberal Dutch society. He thought Muslim culture had never undergone a process of modernisation and therefore still lacked acceptance of democracy and women's, gays', lesbians' and minorities' rights. He feared Muslims would try to replace the Dutch legal system with the shari'a law.
He said he was concerned about intolerance in the Muslim community. In a televised debate in 2002, "Fortuyn baited the Muslim cleric by flaunting his homosexuality. Finally the imam exploded, denouncing Fortuyn in strongly anti-homosexual terms. Fortuyn calmly turned to the camera and, addressing viewers directly, told them that this is the kind of Trojan horse of intolerance the Dutch are inviting into their society in the name of multiculturalism."
When asked by the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant whether he hated Islam, he replied:
|“||I don't hate Islam. I consider it a backward culture. I have travelled much in the world. And wherever Islam rules, it's just 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 standards and values that are so high that you can't humanly maintain them. You also see that in that Muslim culture. Then look at the Netherlands. In what country could an electoral leader of such a large movement as mine be openly homosexual? How wonderful that that's possible. That's something that one can be proud of. And I'd like to keep it that way, thank you very much.||”|
Fortuyn used the word achterlijk, literally meaning "backward", but commonly used as an insult in the sense of "retarded". After his use of "achterlijk" caused an uproar, Fortuyn said he had used the word with its literal meaning of "backward".
The ideology or political style that is derived from Pim Fortuyn, and in turn the LPF, is often called Fortuynism. Observers variously saw him as a political protest targeting the alleged elitism and bureaucratic style of the Dutch purple coalitions or as offering an appealing political style. The style was characterized variously as one "of openness, directness and clearness", populism or simply as charisma. Another school holds Fortuynism as a distinct ideology, with an alternative vision of society. Some argued that Fortuynism was not just one ideology, but contained liberalism, populism and nationalism.
During the 2002 campaign, Fortuyn was accused of being on the "extreme right", although others saw only certain similarities. While he employed anti-immigration rhetoric, he was neither a radical nationalist nor a defender of traditional authoritarian values. On the contrary, Fortuyn wanted to protect the socio-culturally liberal values of the Netherlands, women's rights and sexual minorities (he was openly homosexual himself), from the "backward" Islamic culture. He held liberal views favouring the drug policy of the Netherlands, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and related positions.
His ideology can be comprised in the following positions:
Fortuyn was compared with the politicians Jörg Haider and Jean-Marie Le Pen in the foreign press. These comparisons were often referred to by Dutch reporters and politicians. An explicit comparison with Le Pen was made by Ad Melkert, then lijsttrekker of the Labour Party, who said in Emmen on 24 April 2002:
|“||"If you flirt with Fortuyn, then in the Netherlands the same thing will happen as happened in France. There they woke up with Le Pen, soon we will wake up with Fortuyn."||”|
On 5 May, the day before the assassination, Fortuyn debated with Melkert in a debate organized by the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper about demonization of himself. In it he said that he often had to tell journalists that the image created of him in the media was incorrect.
Columnist Jan Blokker wrote:
|“||"After reading (...) I realized once again that Professor Pim may really be called the Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Filip Dewinter, the Jörg Haider and the new Hans Janmaat of the Netherlands."||”|
Fortuyn changed the Dutch political landscape and political culture. The 2002 elections, only weeks after Fortuyn's death, were marked by large losses for the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy and especially the social democratic Labour Party (whose parliamentary group was halved in size); both parties replaced their leaders shortly after their losses. The election winners were the Pim Fortuyn List, and the Christian democratic Christian Democratic Appeal. Some[who?] commentators think that Fortuyn's perceived martyrdom created greater support for the LPF, which seems likely given its quick later decline.
Contemporary Dutch politics is more polarized than it has been in recent years, especially on the issues for which Fortuyn was best known. People debate the success of their multicultural society, and whether they need to better assimilate newcomers. The government's decision to expel numerous asylum seekers whose applications had failed was controversial. Fortuyn had advocated an amnesty for asylum seekers' already residing in the Netherlands.
The coalition cabinet of Christian Democratic Appeal, Pim Fortuyn List and People's Party for Freedom and Democracy fell within three months, due to infighting within the LPF. In the following elections, the LPF was left with only 8 seats in parliament (out of 150) and was not included in the new government. Political commentators speculated that discontented voters might vote for a non-traditional party, if a viable alternative was at hand. In recent times the right-wing Party for Freedom, which has a strong stance on immigration and integration, won 9 (out of 150) seats in the 2006 elections and 24 in 2010.
In 2004, in a TV show, Fortuyn was chosen as De Grootste Nederlander ("Greatest Dutchman of all-time"), followed closely by William of Orange, the leader of the independence war that established the precursor to the present-day Netherlands. The election was not considered representative, as it was held by viewers' voting through the internet and by phoning in. Theo van Gogh had been murdered a few days before by a Muslim, which likely affected people's voting in the TV contest for Fortuyn. The program later revealed that William of Orange had received the most votes, but many could not be counted until after the official closing time of the television show (and the proclamation of the winner), due to technical problems. The official rules of the show said that votes counted before the end of the show would be decisive, but it was suggested that all votes correctly cast before the closing of the vote would be counted. Following the official rules, the outcome was not changed.
Fortuyn's political career and popularity suggested a change in the Dutch people's views of their society as tolerant with integrated multiple cultures.
"First of all, one can conclude that criticism on political correctness and on the ideal of the multicultural society has broken through for real relatively late.... In the end it was Pim Fortuyn, the electoral success of the LPF and namely the murder on Fortuyn which led to the definitive breakthrough."
Although Fortuyn did not advocate segregation, he brought it up as a debatable issue.
Right-wing politicians gained power after Fortuyn's death, such as former Minister for Integration & Immigration Rita Verdonk and the prominent critic of Islam, Member of the House of Representatives Geert Wilders. These politicians often focused on the debate over cultural assimilation and integration.
In 2005, three years after Fortuyn's death, the Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries obtained and publicized a secret report of the intelligence department of the Rotterdam police. Fortuyn and several other members of his party had been the subject of an investigation by the intelligence services. An anonymous informant claimed that Fortuyn had engaged in sex with Moroccan youths aged between 16 and 21; this was legal under Dutch law. The Ministry of the Interior informed parliament that the report contained factual inaccuracies, and that the trustworthiness of the original source could not be verified.
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Pim Fortuyn List