Wednesday, May 08, 2002
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By Batuk Gathani
Pim Fortuyn (second left) is seen during the presentation of his candidates for the general elections in Rotterdam in this March file photo.
The Dutch Cabinet held an emergency secession on Tuesday to decide whether to postpone the Parliamentary elections scheduled for May 15.
In recent weeks, the far right have been gaining support across much of Europe and Holland is no exception. According to opinion polls, Mr. Fortuyn's party, L.P.F., would have won 15 per cent of the popular vote in the general election. His overt ambition was to claim the country's premiership.
Mr. Fortuyn was Holland's answer to France's Le Pen. The former's political programme was based on right wing, racist and anti-immigrant agenda. The L.P.F was cobbled together after Mr Fortuyn was sacked as leader by another emerging populist grouping.
He argued that Holland was "full'' and that further immigration should be stopped. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., he propagated a strong anti-Islamic viewpoint and said: "If I could arrange it legally, I would simply say no more Muslims can come in.'' A majority of Holland's Muslims are Turks and North African Arabs. Apart from Muslims, he wanted curbs on migrants from developing countries who are widely accused of living on social service hand-outs and benefits.
While describing Islam as a ``backward culture" in his recent political campaign, Mr Fortuyn had also drawn attention to the oppression of Muslim women in Holland. According to the latest statistics, 3.1 per cent of Holland's 15.5 million people are foreigners and 12 per cent of the population are of non-Dutch origin.
He denied accusations of being a racist and appointed a dark skinned businessman as his second-in-command. Mr. Fortuyn, who was openly homosexual, was a former Marxist and taught sociology at a number of Dutch universities. An interview of him was prominently displayed in the May 3 issue of the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper stated that the surprise electoral appeal of Mr. Fortuyn raised "uncomfortable questions about democracy in Holland.''
Aged 54, Mr Fortuyn resented being compared to the 75-year-old Mr Le Pen whom he described as "an old and petit bourgeois nationalist'' while "I am a citizen of the world.''
Mr. Fortuyn would have had a great impact on the outcome of the general elections. He came across as a "polished politician with some pretty radical views,'' according to a journalist at the Wall Street Journal. Other observers of Dutch politics agree that the outspoken Mr Fortuyn had struck a chord with the Dutch voters. All this is seen as part of the rising tide of anti-immigrant politics in several European countries.
The acting Prime Minister of Holland, Wim Kok, described Mr. Fortuyn's death as "a deeply tragic moment'' and added, "this is not just an assassination attempt on Pim Fortuyn but also on Dutch democracy.''
In the recent past, centre-left Governments have lost office in Italy, Norway, Denmark and Portugal and centre-right parties have mounted a strong challenge in the coming elections in Germany and Holland. These parties have benefited vastly from the average European voter's anger that mainstream parties have ignored the perceived link between rising crime and immigration. The current electoral battle cry all over the European Union is that immigration from developing and Muslim countries should be restricted.
The suspected killer of Mr. Fortuyn had environmentalist propaganda and ammunition at his home, public prosecutors said on Tuesday.
But the chief public prosecutor, Theo Hofstee, said the man suspected of gunning down Mr. Fortuyn had shed no light on the motive for the attack. ``The suspect has made no statement,'' Mr. Hofstee told reporters, adding that the 32-year-old man had no criminal record but that bullets were found at his home that matched the calibre of casings found at the murder scene.
Mr. Hofstee said a search last night of the man's home in the central town of Harderwijk ``found that he was in possession of material that indicates involvement in environmental activism'', though he said he made no link between that and the murder.
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