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Pim Fortuyn

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Pim Fortuyn

Pim Fortuyn
Pim Fortuyn, 4 May 2002, two days before his assassination (Photo: Roy Beusker)
Born Wilhelmus Simon Petrus Fortuijn
(1948-02-19)19 February 1948
Driehuis, Netherlands
Died 6 May 2002(2002-05-06) (aged 54)
Hilversum, Netherlands
Cause of death
Resting place
Monuments Pim Fortuyn Plaats, Rotterdam
Residence Rotterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Alma mater Vrije Universiteit
University of Groningen
Occupation Politician, civil servant, sociologist, author, columnist, professor
Title Doctor of Philosophy
Political party
Labour Party (1974–1989)
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (mid 90s)
Livable Netherlands (2001–2002)
Livable Rotterdam (2001–2002)
Pim Fortuyn List (2002)
Religion Roman Catholicism

Wilhelmus Simon Petrus Fortuijn, known as Pim Fortuyn (Dutch:  ( ); 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.[1]

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.[2] He was labelled a far-right populist by his opponents and in the media, but he fiercely rejected this label[3] and in retrospect his Labour opponents say his positions are largely accepted.[4]

Fortuyn 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 he 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 Democratic U.S. president John F. Kennedy. Fortuyn also criticised the Polder model and the policies of the outgoing government of Wim Kok and repeatedly described himself and LPF's ideology as pragmatism and not populism.[5] Fortuyn was openly homosexual.

Fortuyn was assassinated during the 2002 Dutch national election campaign[6][7][8] 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.[9][10][11]

Early life and education

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 Marxist at the time. Later, he joined the Labour Party.

In 1989 Fortuyn became director of a 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.[12]

Political career

Pim Fortuyn in 1991

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.

Heading the list of 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.


Fortuyn's house in Rotterdam where he lived from 1998 until his death

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.[13] Months later, Van der Graaf confessed in court to the first notable political assassination in the Netherlands since 1672 (excluding WW II events).[14] He was sentenced to eighteen years in prison and automatically paroled in 2014, after having served twelve years.

The assassination shocked many residents of the Netherlands and highlighted the cultural clashes within the country. Various conspiracy theories arose after Pim Fortuyn's murder and deeply affected Dutch politics and society.[15] 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.[16]

Fortuyn was initially buried in province of Pordenone in Italy, where he had owned a house.

Views on Islam and immigration

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."[17] 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."

After his death a statue was placed at his home in Rotterdam

On 9 February 2002, additional statements made by him were carried in the Volkskrant.[2] 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.).[18] 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.[4][19] Hassan had died three years earlier.[20] 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.[4] 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."[21]

When asked by the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant whether he hated Islam, he replied:

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".

Fortuyn wrote Against the Islamization of Our Culture (1997) (in Dutch).[23]


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.[24]

During the 2002 campaign, Fortuyn was accused of being on the "extreme right", although others saw only certain similarities.[25] 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.[26] He held liberal views favouring the drug policy of the Netherlands, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and related positions.

The LPF also won support from some ethnic minorities; one of Fortuyn's closest associates was of Cape Verdean origin, and one of the party's MPs was a young woman of Turkish descent.

His ideology can be comprised in the following positions:[27]


Anti-Fortuyn poster of the International Socialists with the slogan "Stop de Hollandse Haider" (English: "Stop the Dutch Haider") near Fortuyn's house in Rotterdam on 6 May 2002

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:

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.[29]

Columnist Jan Blokker wrote:


Pim Fortuyn monument in Rotterdam

Fortuyn changed the Dutch political landscape and political culture.[31] 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 commentators think that Fortuyn's perceived martyrdom created greater support for the LPF, which seems likely given its quick later decline.

The Netherlands has made its asylum policy more strict. Some have objected to what they think is a harsher political and social climate, especially towards immigrants and Muslims.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35]

Parking lot in Hilversum where Fortuyn was assassinated

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."[36]
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.

Posthumous sexual accusations

In 2005, three years after Fortuyn's death, Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries obtained and publicized a secret report of the intelligence department of the Rotterdam police.[37] Fortuyn and several other members of his party had been the subject of an investigation by the intelligence services. According to De Vries, an anonymous informant had claimed that Fortuyn had engaged in sex with under-age Moroccan youths;[38] they would be 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.[39]


  • Het zakenkabinet Fortuyn (A.W. Bruna, 1994)
  • Beklemmend Nederland (A.W. Bruna, 1995), (ISBN 90-229-8234-3)
  • Uw baan staat op de tocht!: Het einde van de overlegeconomie (A.W. Bruna, 1995) (ISBN 90-229-8254-5
  • Tegen de islamisering van onze cultuur: Nederlandse identiteit als fundament (A.W. Bruna, 1997), (ISBN 90-229-8338-2)
  • Zielloos Europa (Bruna, 1997), (ISBN 90-229-8352-8)
  • 50 jaar Israel, hoe lang nog?: Tegen het tolereren van fundamentalisme (Bruna, 1998), (ISBN 90-229-8407-9)
  • De derde revolutie (bruna, 1999)
  • De verweesde samenleving (Karakter Uitgevers, 2002) (ISBN 90-6112-931-1)
  • De puinhopen van acht jaar Paars (Karakter Uitgevers, 2002), (ISBN 9-0611-2911-7)

See also

  • 06/05, a movie loosely based upon the murder


  1. ^ Margry, Peter Jan: The Murder of Pim Fortuyn and Collective Emotions. Hype, Hysteria, and Holiness in the Netherlands? published in the Dutch magazine Etnofoor: Antropologisch tijdschrift nr. 16 pages 106–131, 2003,English version available online
  2. ^ a b (Dutch) newspaper interview (summary)Volkskrant at the Wayback Machine (archived February 12, 2002)
  3. ^ Cf. this BBC interview. Retrieved July 2007.
  4. ^ a b c "10 years after Pim Fortuyn was murdered: what the papers say". Dutch News. 10 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "Interview with Belgium news agency". 
  6. ^ Simons, Marlise (7 May 2002). "Rightist Candidate in Netherlands Is Slain, and the Nation Is Stunned". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  7. ^ James, Barry (7 May 2002). "Assailant shoots gay who railed against Muslim immigrants: Rightist in Dutch election is murdered". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Simons, Marlise (8 May 2002). "Elections to Proceed in the Netherlands, Despite Killing". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  9. ^ Fortuyn killed 'to protect Muslims', The Daily Telegraph, 28 March 2003:
    [van der Graaf] said his goal was to stop Mr Fortuyn exploiting Muslims as "scapegoats" and targeting "the weak parts of society to score points" to try to gain political power.
  10. ^ Fortuyn killer 'acted for Muslims', CNN, 27 March 2003:
    Van der Graaf, 33, said during his first court appearance in Amsterdam on Thursday that Fortuyn was using "the weakest parts of society to score points" and gain political power.
  11. ^ Jihad Vegan at the Wayback Machine (archived July 21, 2011), Dr Janet Parker 20 June 2005, New Criminologist
  12. ^ Mark Eyck, "Interview: Pim Fortuyn", Katholiek Nieuwsblad (Catholic Newspaper), 15 Februari 2002
    " Question: U beschouwt zichzelf nog wel als katholiek? Answer: Ja, daar ontkom je niet aan. [..] Question: Toch noemt u zich ondanks uw homoseksualiteit nog steeds katholiek. Answer: Ik bén katholiek! Ik ben nota bene gedoopt! Ik noem me niet zo, ik ben het!" (Question: Do you still consider yourself a Catholic? Answer: Yes, you can't escape from that. [..] Question: But in spite of your homosexuality you still call yourself a Catholic. Answer: I am a Catholic. I have, after all, been baptised! I don't call myself one, I am one!)
  13. ^ Conway, Isobel (7 May 2002). "Dutch far-right leader shot dead". The Independent (London). Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  14. ^ van Sas, N.C.F. (2005). De metamorfose van Nederland:van oude orde naar moderniteit 1750-1900. p. 373.  
  15. ^ * Jelle van Buuren: Holland’s Own Kennedy Affair. Conspiracy Theories on the Murder of Pim Fortuyn. = Historical Social Research, Vol. 38, 1 (2013), pp. 257-85.
  16. ^ "Rightist politician is slain and the Nation is stunned", New York Times, Archive, 7 May 2002]
  17. ^ (Dutch) Original quote in Dutch: Ik ben ook voor een koude oorlog met de islam. De islam zie ik als een buitengewone bedreiging, als een ons vijandige samenleving. ("I also favor a cold war against Islam. I see Islam as being an exceptional threat, as a society hostile to ours".)
  18. ^ Asylum Immigration Statistics and Asylum Requests Statistics, Netherlands Bureau of Statistics
  19. ^ (Dutch)Volkskrant interview, 2 February 2002, full text. Retrieved 18 July 2007.
  20. ^ Hassan II of Morocco
  21. ^ Quoted from "Murder in Holland", Rod Dreher, National Review, 7 May 2002 [1]
  22. ^ Original quote in Dutch: "Ik haat de islam niet. Ik vind het een achterlijke cultuur. Ik heb veel gereisd in de wereld. En overal waar de islam de baas is, is het gewoon verschrikkelijk. Al die dubbelzinnigheid. Het heeft wel iets weg van die oude gereformeerden. Gereformeerden liegen altijd. En hoe komt dat? Omdat ze een normen- en waardenstelsel hebben dat zo hoog ligt dat je dat menselijkerwijs niet kunt handhaven. Dat zie je in die moslimcultuur ook. Kijk dan naar Nederland. In welk land zou een lijsttrekker van een zo grote beweging als de mijne, openlijk homoseksueel kunnen zijn? Wat fantastisch dat dat kan. Daar mag je trots op zijn. En dat wil ik graag effe zo houden".
  23. ^ Tegen de islamisering van onze cultuur: Nederlandse identiteit als fundament, A.W. Bruna, 1997, ISBN 90-229-8338-2
  24. ^ Mudde 2007, pp. 213–214
  25. ^ Rydgren & van Holsteyn 200, pp. 48–49
  26. ^ Rydgren; van Holsteyn, 2005, p. 49.
  27. ^ Andeweg, R. and G. Irwin Politics and Governance in the Netherlands, Basingstoke (Palgrave) p.49
  28. ^ (Dutch): "Als je flirt met Fortuyn, dan gebeurt er in Nederland straks hetzelfde als in Frankrijk. Daar zijn ze wakker geworden met Le Pen, straks worden wij wakker met Fortuyn." quote from article in Het Financieele Dagblad, 25 April 2002.
  29. ^ (Dutch) "Het laatste debat" on YouTube Nova, 18 juni 2002
  30. ^ (Dutch): Na lezing (...) was ik er eens te meer van overtuigd dat Professor Pim wel degelijk de Jean-Marie Le Pen, de Filip Dewinter], de Jörg Haider en de nieuwe Hans Janmaat van Nederland mag heten.", de Volkskrant, 25 March 2002
  31. ^ See BBC impression for an early evaluation. Retrieved July 2007.
  32. ^ "Fortuyn ghost stalks Dutch politics", (BBC News)
  33. ^ Dutch MPs approve asylum exodus (BBC News)
  34. ^ (Dutch) Greatest Dutchman
  35. ^ "'" | 'Pim Fortuyn toch niet de Grootste Nederlander. Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  36. ^ Quote from Prins, Baukje & Slijper, Boris – 'Integratie zorgt in veel landen voor controverses', De Helling, winter 2002: "Ten eerste kan men stellen dat de kritiek op de politieke correctheid en het ideaal van de multiculturele samenleving relatief laat echt is doorgebroken. [...] Uiteindelijk waren het Pim Fortuyn, het electorale succes van de LPF en met name de moord op Fortuyn die tot de definitieve doorbraak hebben geleid." (Tegenwicht)
  37. ^ Editorial, "LPF: Onderzoek naar Fortuyn 'misselijkmakend'", Elesevier, 15 December 2005
  38. ^ Raoul du Pré, "Remkes: AIVD heeft Fortuyn niet afgeluisterd", Volkskrant, 15 December 2005
  39. ^ (Dutch) Explanation from the Minister of the Interior to Parliament (in Dutch)

External links

  • (Dutch) Official Parliamentary Biography
  • Pim Fortuyn at the Internet Movie Database
  • Meertens Collection Pim Fortuyn
  • Article "Hype, Hysteria, Holiness and the Murder of Pim Fortuyn" (Margry)
Party political offices
New creation Party leader of Livable Netherlands
Succeeded by
Fred Teeven
Party leader of the Pim Fortuyn List
Succeeded by
Mat Herben
Party chair of the Pim Fortuyn List
Succeeded by
Peter Langendam
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