How emotions could help win LPF power
The shock assassination of Pim Fortuyn could lead to an emotional election next week propelling the deceased politician's party into a governing coalition. Aaron Gray-Block reports.
But what is certain is that it will be unlike any other.
Associate professor with Erasmus Universitiet in Rotterdam, Harry Daemen, said a large percentage of the electorate might decide to vote for the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) next Wednesday.
Prof Daemen said a second possibility was that rational voters might decide the LPF was no longer a viable option due to the death of its leader, but he feared these voters would be a small percentage.
As a result, he predicted the LPF could win up to 25 seats, or between 15 and 18 percent of the vote, making the party's parliament representation large enough to demand a place in a governing coalition.
Dutch legislation prevented the LPF from removing Fortuyn from its list of candidates so close to an election. Any votes placed for the murdered Fortuyn will be directed towards his party - a unique scenario.
Prof Daemen also said if the LPF enjoyed a successful election next week, an unstable political climate in the short-term could see a new election within 12 months.
He said a coalition involving the LPF could become unworkable, due in part to the lack of political experience of LPF candidates.
The other possible scenario could be the formation of a broad-based coalition excluding the LPF, but due to wide policy differences, this coalition could also prove unworkable, again forcing a second election.
Dutch research bureaus - including NIPO and Interview-NSS - have also identified the emotion factor in Fortuyn's death and have decided not to conduct any election polls until at least Saturday.
Interview-NSS said it had not yet decided whether it would conduct a survey poll on Saturday, while NIPO said its results from a poll planned for Saturday would be published next week. Other research bureaus have to decide when they will conduct their next poll.
This means that any immediate indication of voter intentions following the death of Fortuyn cannot be determined.
But LPF spokesman Herben - while predicting 2 million Dutch voters would choose LPF at the polling booths - urged people not to suddenly vote for the LPF based on Fortuyn's murder.
Research bureau Intomart had predicted before his death that Fortuyn would win the post of prime minister in the 15 May elections, basing its statement on the 6 March municipal elections in which Fortuyn won 17 of Rotterdam Council's 45 seats. It also said polls had underestimated the strength of the Fortuyn party.
A political dogfight
In the weeks leading up to his assassination, Dutch politics had descended into a dogfight between Fortuyn and the main political parties, with Fortuyn particularly attracting widespread publicity and criticism for his outspoken immigration plans.
Fortuyn once labelled Islam a "backward culture" and also called for the abolition of the anti-discrimination clause in the Dutch Constitution.
But he recently rejected comparisons of him with French far right politician Le Pen.
"All those who are here can stay. I don't say send them home like he does - I just say the Netherlands is a small country," Fortuyn was quoted as saying.
"We are already overcrowded, there's no more room and we must shut the borders."
But Prof Daemen believes the electoral strength of LPF will have been increased by Monday's tragedy - which saw a lone gunman shoot and kill Fortuyn at the Hilversum Media Park.
Suspect and environmental activist Volkert Van der G has been charged with murder and the illegal possession of a firearm. A possible link to the case is Fortuyn's recent statement in which he spoke in favour of lifting a present ban on the killing of animals for the fur trade.
Putting the criminal case aside, Prof Daemen labelled it a shrewd political move of the LPF to not immediately appoint a successor to Fortuyn.
And given the volatile situation, Prof Daemen believed the election should be delayed, despite the fact that caretaker Prime Minister Wim Kok said the Cabinet had decided - after "very penetrating" discussions with the LPF and other political parties - that the election should go ahead as planned.
The leaders of the Dutch political parties agreed with the cabinet's decision.
Kok had said that "democracy and the memory of Fortuyn are best served by allowing democracy to take its full course".
But Prof Daemen doubted whether next week's poll could be a deemed a "free election".
"How free is it emotionally?" he asked.
The election is also shaping as being unique in that all parties have abandoned their campaigning out of respect for Fortuyn.
Prof Daemen denied the assertion from Lower House of Parliament chair Jeltie van Nieuwenhoven that the Dutch people lived in an "adult democracy" in which the voters were in good position with which to make their choice.
He said all politicians were forced by the very nature of their profession to deny the well-recognised political science fact that voters were irrational.
He said the irrationality of voters was sufficient argument enough to delay the election.
Despite his prediction of short-term instability in party politics, the traditional continuity in Dutch politics would remain in the long-term.
But he predicted the demise of the LPF, giving rise to a new challenge for the political parties - such as the PvdA, CDA and VVD - to bring LPF voters back into the fold. He said they would in future need to try and attract former LPF voters.
In regards Fortuyn's legacy, Prof Daemen said Dutch politics would remain invigorated in response to the fresh style of Fortuyn.
He predicted Dutch politics would in future involve more vivid political debate with an emphasis towards "pointy" and "sharp" political discussions.
8 May 2002