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Pim Fortuyn: Man of paradox

Pym Fortuyn
Fortuyn: This country is bursting. I think 16 million people is quite enough"  

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (CNN) -- Dutch maverick politician Pim Fortuyn was a colourful figure in what many voters complained was a bland political landscape in the Netherlands.

The 54-year-old courted controversy with his robust style, being blunt, outspoken and flamboyant, an approach formerly unseen in Dutch politics.

The former Marxist, sociology lecturer and newspaper columnist stood out with his shaven-head and bright, colourful ties and was also conspicuous travelling around in a car with blacked-out windows.

Proudly homosexual, he spoke out against immigration and high taxation and accused the Dutch government of poor performance.

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He also described Islam as a "backward culture" in his book, Against the Islamicisation of Our Culture.

He attracted a wide following, but was shot dead just nine days before a scheduled May 15 election in which opinion polls had forecast his newly-formed Lijst Pim Fortuyn party, which won a stunning 35 percent in local elections in Rotterdam in March, would get between 25 and 28 seats in the 150-member parliament, at the expense of the socialists.

In November last year he became leader of the Leefbaar (livable) Nederland party. He guided the party to the right, but in February he was expelled after criticising Muslims in the newspaper De Volkskrant, and suggesting an article in the Dutch constitution banning discrimination should be changed.

Although Fortuyn was part of a new wave of Dutch politicians and often perceived as an extremist, he insisted he was not like Jean-Marie Le Pen and wanted nothing to do with the French far-right leader.

He was at pains to point out that he was not against immigrants, but he questioned their ability to assimilate into a liberal and racially tolerant culture and argued immigration had to be curbed in order for the Netherlands' liberal social values to survive.

"My policies are multi-ethnic and certainly not racist," he said. "I want to stop the influx of new immigrants. This way, we can give those who are already here the opportunity to fully integrate into our society."

In a recent interview, he argued: "In Holland, homosexuality is treated the same way as heterosexuality. In what Islamic country does this happen?"

Fortuyn's platform seemed out of place in the ultra-liberal Netherlands, which he argued was full up with 16 million people.

While not advocating deportation, he criticised the country's estimated 800,000 Muslims for not embracing Dutch life and said government benefits should be restricted to Dutch speakers.

Though tolerant of such subcultures, Fortuyn targeted a deep vein of suspicion of immigrants and also blamed them for a rising crime wave.

He said: "I'm not anti-Muslim. I'm not anti-immigrant. I'm saying we've got big problems in our cities.

"It's not very smart to make the problems bigger by letting in millions more immigrants from rural Muslim cultures that don't assimilate. This country is bursting. I think 16 million people is quite enough."

Fortuyn also cautioned about the expansion of the European Union to include Eastern European countries, and lamented the loss of Dutch national identity within the EU.




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