Election defeat for Fortuynistas

Searchlight, March 2003

The populist so-called "civil revolution" which held Dutch politics in its grip during the 2002 came to an abrupt end, it appears, with the 22 January elections.

The new parties, Liveable Netherlands (LN) and List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), which spearheaded the populist upsurge and represented a new hard right line in Dutch politics were given a hefty slap in the face by the electorate.

LN, hit by an internal row and several splits, lost its two seats in parliament and seems to have reached the end of the road. The LPF, in turn, lost 18 seats and was left with just eight.
More than two-thirds of LPF voters in the May 2002 did not even bother to vote and most of the rest switched to the right-wing liberal VVD, which won an additional 4 seats.

This was no surprise. The VVD was the most assiduous in trying to mop up LPF voters, presenting tough statements against immigration and demanding the assimilation of immigrants. The VVD may have gained but its dream coalition combination with prime minister Balkenende's Christian Democrats (CDA) failed to materialise.

What was surprising, however, was the spectacular re- emergence of the almost shattered social democratic PvdA, led by the charismatic Wouter Bos, and now the PvdA and CDA are in talks about the formation of a new coalition.

What does this all mean for the new politics shaped by the late Pim Fortuyn? That the LPF managed to retain eight seats was an achievement for such a new party and means there is room for a hard right party on the Dutch political landscape, even if the traditional right- wing liberal VVD still exists as an alternative.

A coalition partner in the previous government, the LPF seems to have stabilised itself recently and could still win political respectability by performing well in opposition.

It has taken steps in this direction by dumping right-wing extremists like Rien Boiten and racist politicians like Winny de Jong, who tried her luck with Conservatives.nl but got a pitiful 2358 votes. She was not elected and neither was her running mate, the notorious racist Michiel Smit of Liveable Rotterdam.

In Rotterdam, Fortuyn's hometown, Liveable Rotterdam (LR) is continuing its war on immigration and crime. Smit, who was gagged by LR until the elections by his party because of his links with right wing extremists, has been leading the campaign against the building of new mosques and the supposed lack of integration by immigrants.

These politics are, needless to say, warmly welcomed by supporters of the fascist New National Party (NNP), which still hold two local council seats in Rotterdam's Feijenoord district.

On the provincial level, the LPF also seems to be better organised. It will contest all the regional elections to be held in March and has a chance of winning seats. Its youth outfit, the Young Fortyunists (JF) are steadily building up their organisation and have already attracted the attention of young right-wing extremists trying to profit from the JF's "open" organisation.

So far, they have had little success, but the existence of parties and organisations which have much in common with classical right-wing extremism makes potential for a broadening and strengthening of the right-wing political spectrum greater than ever in the Netherlands.

The most radical part of the right-wing movement, the hardcore fascist Nederlandse Volks Unie (NVU-Dutch Peoples Union) will stand in the province of Gelderland in the March ballot. The NVU, which promotes itself as "the original anti-immigration party" and whose main slogan is "Stop asylum now", needs to win 10,000 votes to win a council seat and that seems highly unlikely.

The early signs, however, are disturbing. Despite the dictatorship of NVU leader Constant Kusters, who rules his "political soldiers" with a rod of iron, many young racists are backing the party. Whether they will ultimately vote for the NVU is not yet sure but their presence on the streets and in the right-wing youth subculture is undoubtedly growing.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! in Utrecht