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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 04:20 GMT 05:20 UK
Analysis: How will Fortuyn be remembered?
Man holds placard showing Fortuyn alongside pictures of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and John F Kennedy
Fortuyn transformed the dull politics of the Netherlands
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By John Simpson
BBC World Affairs Editor

Pim Fortuyn stepped onto the Dutch national political centre-stage in February, when he founded his anti-immigration party, the Pim Fortuyn List, and by early May he was dead.

Pim Fortuyn
Fortuyn gave rise to hate

In those three months he transformed the dull, predictable politics of the Netherlands.

He claimed to resent any comparison with other extreme right-wing leaders, and particularly Jean-Marie Le Pen in France.

During our interview in Rotterdam last week, shortly before his death, he threatened three times to walk out when I mentioned their names and asked him if he was a racist.

'Archetypical right winger'

But he did not. Publicity was too important for him to throw away.

Whatever his public statements, he shared most of Mr Le Pen's views, except on the question of Israel.

But he knew that he would soon become the most important politician in the country, and was clearly expecting to win 28% or more of the vote in the next week's election.

Therefore he toned down some of his views to suit a broader electorate.

But in many ways - his avowed homosexuality apart - Fortuyn was an archetypical right-winger.

He had the same frank, sarcastic humour as Mr Le Pen, and there was a similar air of menace to some of his younger supporters, as there is to some of Mr Le Pen's.

Contempt for media

His deputy was a black immigrant from the former Portuguese colony of Cape Verde; Mr Le Pen has also had prominent black candidates in his entourage.

The Pim Fortuyn List was his personal vehicle, just as the National Front is Mr Le Pen's.

His confidence was as superb as his manners, his house and his way of dressing.

In a country where every educated person speaks English, Fortuyn was unusual; his English was rather halting, and he would have done better to answer my questions in Dutch.

But he had clearly developed a contempt for journalists, and he had never had to face a really attacking interview before.

He was floored more than once, and lost his temper; always a mistake in dealing with the media.


But Fortuyn was not short of courage.

He kept his beautiful house in Rotterdam, even though it had become surrounded by housing estates where immigrants lived.

Marchers in Rotterdam walk silently in remembrance of Fortuyn
Thousands have marched in remembrance of the slain politician

Other Rotterdam politicians headed off to the wealthier outer suburbs.

His own opinions, which seemed so violent to his opponents in the Netherlands, sometimes attracted an equal degree of violence from them.

He knew the dangers to himself, but said he could not afford the cost of a round-the-clock bodyguard.

The police did not seem to feel he was in any danger.

Spectacular loner

His death leaves the Netherlands badly divided, angry, and frightened at what has happened to the peaceful quality of political life.

As for his party, it may well get a big sympathy vote when the elections come round, but it is highly unlikely to last long without him.

His success was brief and brilliant, he was a spectacular loner, who is more likely to be remembered for the hatred he gave rise to than for his own achievements.

The BBC's John Simpson
meets Pim Fortuyn in an interview recorded before his death
See also:

07 May 02 | Europe
Analysis: The immigration message
07 May 02 | Uefa Cup
Uefa Cup final goes ahead
07 May 02 | Europe
Dutch press in shock
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