The death throes of Pim Fortuyn
The 30th Letter of an Autonomous Thinker

Amsterdam, October 22 2002

Dear reader, 

Charismatic populist politician Pim Fortuyn was murdered on May 6 2002. His just founded political party (LPF) won on May 15 26 seats out of 150 in the Dutch Parliament.
68 days later the LPF, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals founded a new government under the leadership of a weak Christen-Democratic Prime Minister.
87 days later, on October 16 the government succumbed under the continuous internal struggles in the LPF stimulated by political intrigues woven by the other two parties. In the polls the LPF was down to only four seats.

5% more people came in 2002 to the ballot boxes because they thought the new party should improve their unsatisfactory situation. In the next elections many again stayed at home. The old parties did not give much attention to the needs of the masses. Fortuyn brought the problems of the masses to the fore though he hardly proposed solutions. But Fortuyn was murdered.

The LPF was formed in a hurry. Only a few of its MPís had political experience, many were profiteers, sea-lawyers, careerists, fellow travellers, people who loved power or ordinary cranks. All criticised the current situation in Holland but did not offer - just as Fortuyn Ė much of a solution. They had no political program and could not boast on many successes. From the beginning an internal power struggle blocked any political work. The media reported every detail of the fights. The first leader of the LPF-MPís was replaced but his successor was even worse. After two months two MPís were forced to leave the party. The final blow came when two LPF-ministers clashed. On the October 16 the old parties decided to stop the tragic-comedy.

How could it ever happen that a party that got 17% of the votes managed to collapse in a few months?

The founders had a vague idea that something was wrong but did not have a political program nor concrete solutions for the problems of the masses. Even when the MPís should have been honest in their wish to improve the life of the masses, they took the wrong road. They joined the sitting political elite instead of developing new ways to exert independent political pressure. The old elite was first flabbergasted by the new phenomenon but soon acknowledged that the new party was more a nuisance than a threat. They borrowed some slogans from the new party (more safety, better education, better health care, more openness, etceteras) so it seemed that the situation improved but the power relations did not change and the deeper causes of the discontent of the masses were not taken away. Dutch health care remained excellent for people who had enough money to go to private clinics. The masses had still to wait for treatment in the general hospitals. Safety in areas where the masses live remained worse than in the richer parts where the police still controlled the streets. Problems of the masses were only Ďsolvedí with empty words that gave some hope but no improvement.

The old parties could isolate the new party from the masses by seemingly giving in to some demands but in the mean time by maintaining the privileged position of the elite. The following dwindled away by lack of results and because of the internal strife. The struggle against the old elite was abandoned in favour of a position of power that proved to be useless for the improvement of the situation of the masses. The LPF had claimed that ďall should changeĒ but in practice nothing changed, the old political elite remained in power.

I always propagate that masses must never join the elite in order to get a better living situation. When the masses do not exert any independent pressure decisions will continue to favour in the first place the elite. Any mass influence in Parliament is soon canalised by the old elite and the old situation goes on forever. That happened already with socialist, social democrat or populist parties that tried to get power through parliamentary democracy. The masses have nothing to expect from the parliamentary system.

The masses must not try to reign but must force decision-takers to take decisions that are in the first place beneficial for all people instead of in the first place beneficial for the already privileged.

PS. Some more information about the rise of Fortuyn can be found in the 25th Letter.  
See also the article in the series Political Catastrophes: Electoral Landslide in Holland.

Yours truly, Joost van Steenis


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31. Why elections?
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