Maverick who could have been PM
Murdered just nine days before the national elections, in which polls had predicted he would win enough seats to head one of the Netherlands' largest parties in government, Pim Fortuyn built his political career by being outspoken on issues Dutch society was anxious about confronting.
The 54-year-old former academic sociologist was a prolific author, columnist and all-round media personality.
His controversial anti-Muslim comments — he famously described Islam as a "backward culture", a view he expanded on in his book Against the Islamisation of our Culture — and his call for a repeal of the first article of the constitution which forbids discrimination, thrust him into the spotlight in February and got him sacked as leader by Leefbaar Nederlands (Liveable Netherlands).
Professor Pim, as he was often called, swiftly established his own party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) and debated vigorously with the heads of the country's established parties, who initially wrote him off as a maverick.
But Fortuyn's flamboyant personality and controversial opinions enhanced his reputation and the popularity of his party.
In March, he went on to win close to one-third of the votes as a candidate in Rotterdam's municipal elections.
Campaigning on a largely anti-immigration platform, recent polls suggested that in next week's national elections LPF were set to pick up enough seats in the country's 150-seat parliament to become the cabinet's biggest single party, which would have allowed Fortuyn to claim the prime ministerial job, if he could get one or more other parties to enter a coalition with him.
Some polls predicted that LPF would win as many as 26 seats - or 17 percent of the parliament.
Despite his strong stance against immigration — he was repeatedly quoted as saying that the country was "full" — and his attacks against the Netherlands' 800,000-strong Muslim community, the openly gay Fortuyn wanted to distinguish himself from the bulk of Europe's far-right, traditionalist politicians.
He said he feared that continued growth in the Muslim population was threatening the country's traditional tolerance of diversity and freedom of choice in life.
Born in 1948 to a conservative Catholic family in a small town in the northwest of the country, Fortuyn went to Amsterdam in the 1970s to study sociology and later became a professor at the University of Groningen. A former Marxist, he taught sociology at a number of Dutch universities.
Fortuyn's Italian villa-style Rotterdam residence was christened "Casa di Pietro".
He lived there with his two small dogs, Kenneth and Carla, was served by a butler, and boasted a chauffeur-driven car.
Apart from his policies on immigration from developing countries, Fortuyn struck a chord among voters in his criticism of the cosy deals among parties and other recognised interest groups.
He also argued that public health and education could be improved by cutting layers of bureaucracy rather than throwing more money at them.
Ironically, another plank to his programme was to improve the effectiveness of the police.
Fortuyn presented himself as a "no nonsense" man of the people, who said, he knew what the Dutch people wanted. He often remarked: "Things have to be done like this. There is no other way".
Here is a summary of LPF's policies:
- Borders will be sealed to halt the annual stream of tens of thousands of newcomers, who largely end up as illegal aliens
- An amnesty for the 'white illegal', newcomers who have been working here and paying tax for a minimum of five years but who do not have permits to stay. They must also be able to speak Dutch
- Taking additional steps to compel newcomers already living here to integrate
- Tackling the bureaucratic nature of the government. The party hopes to nominate people from the business community as ministers in the next government
- A total reorganisation of the police and justice system
- Laws must be more strictly enforced
- Police must be freed from desk duties
- Police chiefs to be held accountable for performance
- Increasing the custom service's manpower to tackle illegal immigration and international criminal gangs
- Combined police units, consisting of various specialist police forces to maximise fight against international organised crime
- Total overhaul of healthcare system to help cut waiting lists
- Increased staffing
- The education system would be deregulated, with a preference for smaller schools. Each child must be within cycling distance of a primary school
- Youngsters should be educated to become modern, caring, assertive citizens
- Teachers to be paid a market-based salary
- WAO worker disability benefit to be limited to people suffering a work-related injury. An emphasis on measures to prevent work-related injuries and getting claimants to return to work
- Maintaining the current "Zalm Norm", or budgetary restraints
- Removal of any taxes which contribute to inflation or increase costs, such as an excessively high VAT, stamp duty, ECO tax and taxes imposed by lower levels of government
- A tax and spending policy based on the solidarity principle. The strongest shoulders will bear the heaviest loads, but in a socially acceptable manner.
- 'Kok's quarter' (a petrol tax) must be returned to the car driver. As long as public transport does not offer a good alternative to the car, it is not fair to bother the business driver in a bureaucratic manner with a variety of tax schemes.