10 years after Pim Fortuyn was murdered: what the papers say

Ten years ago on Sunday, Dutch populist politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered in Hilversum by animal rights activist Volkert van de Graaf, nine days before the general election. This weekend, the Dutch media devoted a large amount of space to assessing Fortuyn’s impact on the Netherlands.

Fortuyn is almost universally regarded as having changed the face of Dutch politics, partly for his outspoken views on Islam, which he regarded as a backward religion, and immigration – he wanted a stop.
His arrival on the political scene came at a time of growing unhappiness in some parts of the country with the perceived failure of multi-culturalism, poor public services and politicians who were distanced from society as a whole.
The Volkskrant quotes one of Fortuyn’s best known one-liners – ‘I say what I think and I do what I say’ – which, it says, represents the break-through of the man in the street. ‘The underbelly of society has been given a prominent place in the political debate,’ the paper says. It is a point which numerous commentators make.
‘Fortuyn belongs to everyone now,’ says Arendo Joustra, the editor of Elsevier magazine, which Fortuyn used to write for. ‘His columns used to cause a stir, but now you can find the points he made in the Labour party’s election manifesto.’
Indeed, Amsterdam Labour politician Rob Oudkerk says in the Parool that he never agreed with efforts to brand Fortuyn as an extreme right-winger.
‘I think if he had not been shot… five or six years later we would have been able to form a broad, progressive government with Labour, D66, parts of the VVD and Fortuyn,’ Oudkerk said. ‘We have now become used to the issues which Fortuyn raised.’
‘Populist parties have been given much more room,’ says former finance minister Wouter Bos. ‘There is debate about immigration, Islam, Europe – subjects which used to be largely ignored.
‘But I have my doubts if that is enough for people. That is one of the things about populism. It is never enough.’
Like Geert Wilders today, Fortuyn’s tongue was notoriously caustic. A political dandy and unabashed homosexual, Fortuyn annoyed many when he dismissed female journalist Wouke van Scherrenburg by saying: ‘oh woman, off you go home and cook.’
He was also happy to discuss politicians’ alleged sexual preferences on camera. Asked once if he shaved the rest of his body as well as his head, Fortuyn invited ‘the good looking lads of Holland’ to come and find out.
‘If you look soberly at Fortuyn’s legacy, you see the bankrupt inventory of a drama queen who personalised and dramatised the public debate,’ philosopher Hans Schnitzler tells the Volkskrant in its retrospective supplement.
Nevertheless, what stands out is how current Fortuyn’s concerns still are, writes Raoul du Pre in an editorial in the Volkskrant.
‘The under-performing public sector, the difficult emancipation of Muslim women, the social problems around Moroccan youths…,’ he writes. ‘2002 was the beginning of many debates which are still ongoing, not least because Geert Wilders’ PVV has taken over many of them.’
Unlike Wilders, however, Fortuyn did not want to deport criminal immigrants. ‘Everyone who is here, stays here,’ Fortuyn said in an interview with the Volkskrant in 2002. ‘They are our Moroccan bad boys. We can’t dump them on King Hassan. We let them in and we have to solve the problem.’
The 10 year anniversary of the murder is being marked in Rotterdam by a church service and a congress on Fortuyn’s legacy. Later in the day, Rotterdam’s Dutch Moroccan mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb will be one of the speakers at a ceremony to rename part of the city’s Korte Hoogstraat Pim Fortuynplaats.
Dutch media coverage
Pim Fortuyn Volkskrant interview: Islam is a backward culture
Pim Fortuyn’s extravagant statements

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