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Monday, 6 May, 2002, 22:37 GMT 23:37 UK
Fortuyn: A Dutch watershed
Pim Fortuyn confronts demonstrators
Fortuyn's provocative comments made for an interesting campaign
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By Dr Herman Langeveld
Free University Amsterdam

The shooting of right-wing politician Pim Fortuyn has sent a massive shock through the Netherlands.

Violence against politicians was until now unknown and Dutch politics have a reputation of tranquility and smoothness.

That was, until Pim Fortuyn decided to start a political career, about half a year ago.

Here was a totally new phenomenon.

Fortuyn blamed all the existing political parties for neglecting the real problems in the country and for losing contact with ordinary people.

Thanks to Fortuyn the electoral campaign was more vivid than it had ever been over the last decades

But that was not all - he placed himself, his personality and his personal qualities in the middle of his electoral campaign, saying that he would be the next prime minister of the Netherlands.

That was a fundamental change in Dutch politics.

Thanks to Fortuyn the electoral campaign was more vivid than it had ever been over the last decades - in some respects it resembled the American presidential election campaigns.

Most controversial was Fortuyn's position towards Islam, which he called a "backward culture", as well as his stance towards immigration.

According to him "enough was enough", and the Netherlands was already a very densely populated country.

With this sort of statement Fortuyn aroused strong opposition from all established parties, but especially from the left-wing parties.

New political reality

The shooting seems to mark a watershed.

Candles burn for Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn's shooting is unprecedented in Holland
Never before had a political party come to the fore that gained such a massive following in such a short time, never before did a politician place himself so much in the centre of the attention, and never before was a poitical career ended so violently.

The consequences of his death for his political movement will be very great - Pim Fortuyn was his political movement.

He had a lot of unknown people on his list and it is hard to imagine one of them taking over the position of Pim Fortuyn.

Things will never be the same in Dutch politics. Dutch society will have to live with the reality of political murder, just as Swedish society had to after the shooting of Prime Minister Olaf Palme.

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