Yesterday, May 6, 2003 the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Dutch political leader Pim Fortuyn has passed. I think it is worthwhile to pause and stand still on the effects of this heinous deed. I think so even more worthwhile because I have never thought it possible to be as moved by a silly anniversary as I have been this time.
As you probably know Pim Fortuyn was the flamboyant, gay, outspoken, charismatic, well-spoken leader of a political movement called Lijst Pim Fortuyn. The movement came about after he was expelled from another party called Leefbaar Nederland due to internal disagreements and some of his more radical views. It centered around his views on healthcare, education and police reform as well as his wish to break the very politically correct embargo on statements pertaining to problems with certain ethnic groups in The Netherlands. Of course he became well known abroad particularly for the latter. He has led his Lijst Pim Fortuyn party to unprecedented expected electoral success (as per pre-election polls). The sitting, predominantly left wing parties tried to their utmost best to discredit the man and his ideas. They tried to label him as a fascist and radical right wing. What they very conveniently overlooked was the fact that a lot of his economic reform ideas were what could be labeled left wing. He also had a number of more conservative solutions to other problems. That in my view was what made the man so appealing, he refused to be pigeon holed in the traditional left-right axis and strove for the best solution regardless of political colour.
Despite the fact that Pim Fortuyn's rise seemed to be fuelled by his stance on immigrants I believe the reasons lied somewhere else. For the eight years prior The Netherlands were led by a very staid, bland and undaring coalition of the Partij van de Arbeid (a socialist party), VVD (a centrist party comparable to the Democrats in the USA) and the D'66 (a mildly leftist party with outspoken views on political reform). These three parties had the luck of forming a cabinet during eight years of unprecedented growth and prosperity in The Netherlands (and elsewhere). They practiced the so-called polder model which essentially is akin to always striving for the middle ground, achieving unanimous consensus and never taking unpopular, yet necessary, decisions. Furthermore it seemed like the opposition parties were not really bothered with making life hard for the coalition. Therefore we ended up with eight years of blandness in Dutch politics. Certain problems such as lack of teachers, hospital waiting lists, rising crime were somehow overlooked if not ignored (which I hope is not the case). These developments have led to a great political apathy among ordinary citizens. A climate of extreme political correctness arose. When the Rotterdam police published that approximately 90% of street muggings were perpetrated by Moroccan immigrants this was overlooked as an anomaly and mentioning it would get you a barrage of epithets thrown at you such as: "racist", "discrimination!" etc.
Pim Fortuyn with his interesting way of talking about politics, and his promise of more transparency and lending a listening ear to the 'man in the street' gained an immense following among both educated and uneducated, rich and poor alike. Oh, and a large number of immigrants were part of his following too. I was one of them, not so much for his economic views, which I disagreed with (being a libertarian) but for his seeming willingness to let a new wind blow through the parliament and his seemingly idealistic desire to make things better. Much to the chagrin of the socialist Partij van de Arbeid, Fortuyn's local party Leefbaar Rotterdam enjoyed a massive success in the local elections and kept the Partij van de Arbeid out of the local council for the first time since World War II. This was a blow in the face of the establishment, which only increased their efforts in battling Fortuyn. This did not have the desired effect.
Coming to the gist of this story now. I have always thought myself a very levelheaded person. I never engaged in any idolatry be it celebrities or politicians or captains of industry. I always had a condescending smirk on my face when seeing pictures of teenage girls screaming at N'Sync or the Backstreet Boys. Yet for some reason I was very angry yesterday. I was angry at Volkert van der Graaf, the eco-fascist who murdered Fortuyn. I was angry at the political establishment, which has since returned to its old ways of doing things. I was angry at that same political establishment who has let down all those people who had renewed hopes in the Dutch politics and were looking forward towards some change. I was angry at the Lijst Pim Fortuyn who botched things up due to internal strife and led to the fall of a cabinet. I wasn't even born when John F.Kennedy was murdered, I was a little kid when Olof Palme was murdered. I always thought to myself 'what's the big deal with all those people whining about it, it's just a guy who got murdered not different to any other murder'. Well I realize now that I was probably wrong. Probably people like JFK and Pim Fortuyn gave ordinary citizens a renewed hope in a change for the better. That hope was stifled by a madman with no respect for fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and freedom to congregate. In the case of Fortuyn the murderer not only got off lightly, receiving a penalty of 18 years imprisonment (in Dutch system this implies an automatic release after 12 years, don't ask me why) he actually coldly stated during the hearings that he is not really remorseful. He claimed that his solution even though not ideal was still the best possible solution. Puzzlingly the court concluded that there is no chance of a repeat offence, which is doubtful in view of his own cool assessment of his deed. A political murder is in my view a much graver crime than let's say a drug-related murder. It not only destroys the life of the individual involved and his family. It also tears at the fabric of constitutional and human rights mentioned before. I even shed a tear yesterday. Strange thing is that it has not occurred to me earlier but only yesterday on the anniversary itself.