Anti-Islamic Fortuyn sacked
11 February 2002 , AMSTERDAM — Leefbaar Nederland (LN) leader Pim Fortuyn ignited a storm of protest during the weekend and was eventually sacked for calling Islam a "backward culture" and demanding the Netherlands close its borders to Muslim immigrants.
11 February 2002
AMSTERDAM — Leefbaar Nederland (LN) leader Pim Fortuyn ignited a storm of protest during the weekend and was eventually sacked for calling Islam a "backward culture" and demanding the Netherlands close its borders to Muslim immigrants.
But the leader of the Netherlands' newest political party was confident he would remain at the helm, despite party president Nagel announcing on Sunday that Fortuyn had been sacked.
Fortuyn claimed the party management — which was quick to condemn his comments — had been pressured by the media into deposing him as leader.
Despite the dismissal, Fortuyn was confident of grassroots party support, but said if he was not successful at staying at the LN helm, he would nominate himself as an independent for the May elections.
"I am compelled to do that by the people of this land," he said.
But Fortuyn said it would be difficult to establish a large campaign due to a lack of funds and an established organisation.
Leefbaar Nederland said on Sunday it would not tolerate Fortuyn's comments and would meet again on Tuesday to decide on his replacement.
The crisis was caused by an interview Fortuyn gave to the Volkskrant newspaper.
The Saturday-published interview quoted him saying that no new Islamic immigrants should be allowed to enter the Netherlands. He said the Netherlands was already full and that 16 million people was enough.
He had labelled the Islamic faith as a "backward culture", a comment that even Filip Dewinter, leader of the Brussels-based extreme rights Flemish Block said was "over-simplified".
But Fortuyn also said that the present ban on discrimination — which is contained in the Dutch Constitution — should be abolished. He also lashed out at asylum seekers in the Netherlands.
The LN management held an emergency meeting on Saturday night to discuss the situation — a meeting Fortuyn attended — and Nagel announced the next day that the party's leader would be replaced.
Nagel said Fortuyn could either leave the political arena or try and reverse his sacking at the party congress on 10 March. Fortuyn could also contest the May election under his own name, the party president said.
Nagel said losing Fortuyn was a big blow to the party, labelling him a charismatic leader who had helped to lift LN to a position where it could have won 22 seats, based on recent polling.
But the president said LN could not accept the fact that Fortuyn's comments had ignored party policy and said the decision to sack him would help the party take on a less right-wing image.
Professor Pinto, an intercultural communications professor at Amsterdam University, has stepped forward as a possible replacement for Fortuyn. Pinto was earlier aligned with the Labour PvdA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 coalition government.
Political parties backed the sacking of Fortuyn, with D66 leader Thom de Graaf calling it a "very understandable decision" while green-left GroenLinks leader Paul Rosenmoller said Fortuyn was always going to be a recipe for an argument, whether it came before or after the election.
The Christian Democrat CDA said LN's decision was based on Fortuyn's comments and was not political opportunism, while the PvdA said it hoped future debates could now be focused on the future of the Netherlands. But the PvdA also said discussions over LN and the beliefs of Fortuyn would continue.
Leefbaar Rotterdam — which also lists Fortuyn as its leader — said it would meet with its leader on Monday to discuss the situation.
Subject: Dutch news