Attempting to fill the political space on the right in the Netherlands

Searchlight, October 2004

The List Pim Fortuyn (LPF), the party founded in 2002 by the right-wing populist, the late Pim Fortuyn, went into its fourth (and, seemingly, terminal) major crisis late this summer.

After the LPF caused the fall of the right-wing coalition government in October 2002, when two of its ministers were openly squabbling over power and portfolios, the loss of 18 of the LPF's 26 seats in the Dutch parliament in the March 2003 elections and the walkout of numerous regional leaders, the latest crisis is about money... mong other things.

On 12 August, LPF chairman of only two months, Henrick Fabius tried to file for the party's bankruptcy at a court in Rotterdam. This move, which involved setting up a new "Union LPF" and which was supported by the 8 LPF MPs, was aimed at solving the organisation's financial problems, not least the fact that property magnates Ed Maas and Chris Thunessen - the two financial mastodons who donated over £1.5 million to the LPF - now want their money back.

By going for bankruptcy, Fabius and his pals hoped they could "lose" the debt to Maas and Thunessen as well as the £ 141,000- worth of losses from their election campaign last year.

That was the aim, but the judge in Rotterdam refused to play, deciding that the issue must be put before the LPF's membership.

Three days after the judge's ruling, three of the LPF's five executive committee members - including Fabius - quit the party for the brand new Union LPF. In the meantime, the LPF's eight parliamentarians broke with the party's 300 members and stopped communicating with them. By doing this, the parliamentarians lost the right to those state benefits that are reserved for parties that participate in the elections.

The now acting "old" LPF chairman, Jan Belder, wants to seek a legal extension of the state payments and removed the three ex-executive members from registration at the Chamber of Commerce. Belder, however, could not fulfil his objective because he had to stand down when it was revealed that he was a fraudster convicted in 1985.

The eight parliamentarian defectors, meanwhile, are busy establishing their own new party and are negotiating with Leefbaar Rotterdam (Livable Rotterdam - LR), Fortuyn's local party which, earlier this year, had a row with the LPF's branch in the city.

This new outfit may become an umbrella under which the entire ragbag of so-called "livable parties" can shelter. According to the LR's leader, Ronald Sorensen, it is possible to reassemble "all fractions of Fortuynism" and even the remnants of the currently diminished Leefbaar Nederland party, in which Fortuyn started his political career, are welcome.

LR leaders, Marco Pastors, known for his anti-Islamic rhetoric, and Sorensen already had plans to contest the elections of 2007 with a new party and were having talks with the no-nonsense rightist LPF activist Joost Eerdmans, a necessary move if they want to save the political heritage of Pim Fortuyn because current polls are showing that the LPF can hold only one seat in parliament, while LR will lose almost all its 15 seats on the Rotterdam council.

It is evident that there is still a big electoral vacuum on the right, a space Fortuyn could have filled, but his disciples clearly could not.

There are now more rivals in the field. For example, the very popular Peter R. de Vries, a TV personality who solves crimes on a commercial station programme, is thinking of entering politics and a rough poll has shown that he could be good for 12 seats in the parliament. Also, Roel Pieper, the millionaire and ex-boss of the electrical giant Philips, who always wanted to be a minister with Fortuyn now has the ambition to be prime minister.

And, last but not least, there are ex-LPF minister Herman Heinsbroek's List New Politics and Geert Wilders, the right-wing maverick of the liberal VVD, who left the party at the beginning of September. Wilders is a very outspoken individual and broke the VVD's discipline over Turkey's entry into the European Union, which Wilders opposes. His 10-point manifesto- which included "stretching the speed limits" and "more nationalism" - for a "more rightist VVD" was also not received with much approval inside the party. Wilders has announced the establishment of a "new rightist liberal" party and is looking for support. In the interim, he will keep his seat in parliament. Recent polls give Wilders between 4 and 10 seats.

It is not realistic to see Wilders move as joining the " Fortuynistas" but rather as a step in the direction of the movement around the Edmond Burke Foundation, a right-wing conservative think tank on social and political issues.

And worthy of mention but not really to be taken seriously, are the open letters issued by the fascist Nationale Alliantie and the ultra right-wing racist NieuwRechts to the 8 LPF-parliamentarians in a bid to get them into their ranks. The only result of this pathetic exercise was an outbreak of fighting between the two bodies, each claiming to have been first with the idea.

Any filling of the vacuum on the right will not come from that direction, so much is sure.

By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net