LPF dominates silly season

Searchlight, October 2002

During the usually quiet summer months, the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF) has managed to get onto the front pages of the papers almost every day with either a new bout of internal wrangling or a scandal, caused by loose talk by ministers, or confidential documents suddenly circulating amongst the eager ranks of the press or, last but not least, the unmasking of a former

extreme right Centrum Partij and later fascist CP'86 member as an advisor to the deceased Pim Fortuyn and his party.

The internal ructions and scandals have deeply disturbed LPF voters and the party has now fallen back in the polls. On current scores, it would only keep 8 of the 26 seats it now holds in parliament.

At the beginning of August, the trial of Volkert van der Graaf, Fortuyn's suspected killer, commenced and the LPF's deputy leader, Ferry Hoogendijk, targeted one of the trial judges, accusing him of being "extreme left" and a "professional activist" because he had worked for the Refugee Council.

Hoogendijk's eruption must be seen in the context of the theories, widespread in the LPF, that the bullets which killed Fortuyn were fired by "the left"‚ and that media demonisation of Fortuyn led to his murder. Needless to say, the LPF has no faith in the trial because it has no faith in the judge. In consequence, the LPF initiated a debate in parliament about getting rid of a suspect's right to silence… Van der Graaf has yet to make a statement.

Van der Graaf's hunger strike, in protest at round-the-clock camera surveillance of his cell and prison conditions, is entering a critical phase and the LPF has demanded that he be force-fed. Meanwhile, the public prosecutor has successfully requested an adjournment of the trial because of "unfinished research" and the trial will resume in September.

Nevertheless, the LPF is still hitting the headlines. For example, the news programme NOVA has revealed that Rien Boiten, a former member of the late right-wing extremist Hans Janmaat's Centrum Partij, was a personal advisor to LPF MP Willem van der Velden.

Boiten, who was also involved in the fascist CP'86 and once stood as a candidate in parliamentary elections in the Hague, knew Van der Velden from his time in Nederland Mobiel, a right-wing conservative motorists' lobby.

Boiten also tried his luck in Leefbaar Nederland (LN), the party of which Fortuyn was the leading candidate for several months, but was suspended for putting racist lyrics up on LN's website He then followed Fortuyn out of LN and was a founder of the LPF, also claiming to have been Fortuyn's personal advisor on some issues. Fortuyn, apparently, was fully aware of Boiten's background but said that it had to be kept secret because the media would attack him for being a right-wing extremist.

Boiten is certainly a busy man. He moderates a website discussing the LPF, organises for the party in Flevoland province, writes press statements for the LPF's parliamentary group and was involved in the coalition negotiations between the LPF, the liberal VVD and the conservative CDA. In the latter role, he was so prominent that he was in the team which sent former LPF leader Mat Herben back to the negotiating table to win a better deal for the party.

New LPF leader, Harry Wijnschenk, a former magazine editor, was immediately confronted with the facts about Boiten. At first, he denied knowing him but later did a U-turn.

Now formally suspended from the LPF, Boiten is not the only example of the way the LPF attracts right-wing extremists. In Rotterdam, city councillor Michiel Smit of Leefbaar Rotterdam, the LPF's branch in the city, which holds 16 seats on the 45- seat council, has launched a frontal attack on Muslims. Now all Imams will have to speak Dutch during their mosque services, the city council is to stop making multi-lingual announcements and mosques will subjected to state control.

Smit, apparently, was so impressed by the fascist Vlaams Blok (VB) in neighbouring Belgium that he wanted to visit Antwerp to "check how they counter problems with immigrants". The trip did not materialise, however, because Leefbaar Rotterdam rejected the idea, telling him that "that was not what Pim wanted."

Smit is also very enamoured of the fascist New National Party (NNP), which has two council seats in Rotterdam's Feijenoord district, congratulating the fascists for establishing a youth wing and attending an NNP protest at its exclusion from council committees in the suburb. He is also active on a nazi forum on the internet where, among other things, he rants that "the only thing worse than a nigger is a white nigger".

The presence of the likes of Boiten and Smit has emboldened others. Ronald Sørensen, the boss of Leefbaar Rotterdam and friend of the late Fortuyn, is now demanding that funding for Anti-Racism Bureaux should be axed, accusing them of not fighting for the rights of Dutch people who "also suffer discrimination".

At the end of August, just when it seemed that new leader Harry Wijnschenk, had restored peace and quiet in his troubled party, three LPF government ministers hit the news headlines.

During the a debate in the new parliamentary session, the first LPF minister to make news was health care chief Eduard Bomhoff who, it was revealed, had summarily sacked one of the top civil servants at his ministry without even having spoken to him, probably because of an old feud or because he did not like the man's Social Democratic politics.

Next in line for the front pages was LPF integration and asylum minister, Hilbrand Nawijn, who, during a single week, announced a new policy proposal every day. His ideas include the repatriation of any young Moroccans found guilty of a crime; forcing city councils still providing shelter to refugees who cannot return to their country to cooperate with his ministry; the removal of funding to projects which help migrants to integrate and the immediate repatriation of 80% of refugees arriving in the Netherlands. Some of his other bright ideas for community relations include the deportation of Imams who violate the law and the deportation of migrant men convicted of beating their wives.

Nawijn's racist policy package has excited LPF supporters but has provoked disgust among mainstream politicians, social researchers, city councils and the media alike. In consequence, he has had to retreat on his plans to send young Moroccan offenders to Morocco because many of these youngsters are Dutch citizens.

Meanwhile, Nawijn "is looking into matter" . Experts have warned that he is no fool, is well qualified to speak on asylum issues – on which he worked for more than 14 years – and that his plans should not be underestimated. Nawijn, they say, dangerously hurls criminals, refugees, subsidies and migrants all into the same pot.

Last in the queue to generate a scandal is the LPF's economic affairs minister, Herman Heinsbroek, who wrote an internal memorandum about the "restoration of values in the Netherlands" which was then leaked to the press.

Heinsbroek's shopping list includes the return of corporal punishment in schools and punishment of parents who complain if their children are so dealt with. Heinsbroek is also demanding that police officers, teachers and elderly people should again be accorded respect and wants a media campaign to teach everybody about "decent" values and habits in the Netherlands.

A loony multimillionaire, Heinsbroek claims he "can sell everything, including values" but says that he is annoyed by too many cycle paths and bleats that he feels limited by the speed limits on Dutch roads.

None of the LPF's policy blueprints have the official sanction of prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende. However, he has indicated that their policy plans could be put forward at the end of September during the budget debate in parliament.

It remains to be seen how the LPF will develop, but given the fact that the party is more or less re-organised, a debt of £260,00 notwithstanding and given that, despite new leader Wijnschenk having the support of a huge chunk of the party, it is Heinsbroek who is making the running and is expected to emerge as unofficial leader of the LPF, it is gaining renewed confidence.

The hot summer will be followed by a harsh political autumn. Later this year, there will be council elections in some cities which will be contested by local LPF branches. The ballots will be a good test of where the party stands on local issues.

In the meantime, some parliamentarians like social democrats Dick Benschop and Ad Melkert have opted to quit politics, because of the "sick climate" in Dutch politics and death threats continue to be sent to politicians, football coaches and journalists. Green Left leader, Paul Rosenmoller, has still has the police bodyguard he has needed since 6 May, the day of Fortuyn's murder.

In this strained atmosphere, many ordinary Dutch people feel afraid to oppose the LPF's repressive and discriminatory politics, migrants feel rejected because Nawijn's of proposals and refugees feel totally unwelcome.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! in Utrecht