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An Election Unlike Any Other in Holland

The Dutch are casting their votes amid tight security and heightened emotions in a national election. Analysts have predicted a massive sympathy vote for the party of slain politician Pim Fortuyn.

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Pim Fortuyn's killing might have triggered deep sympathy among the Dutch, but will they vote for his party today?

The killing of the anti-establishment maverick politician Pim Fortuyn outside a media centre in Hilversum last week has plunged Holland into confusion and uncertainty.

The killing of the outspoken right-wing politician shook up the normally placid Dutch political establishment. And most voters heading to the ballot box today are still shocked that such a thing could happen in their country.

Poll institutes and political pundits have gone into overdrive, trying to predict voter trends.

"Sympathy votes" might see LPF in Dutch cabinet

Most suggest that support for the List Pim Fortuyn Party (LPF) has rapidly increased since the murder of Fortuyn a week ago.

A survey by the Nipo Research Bureau conducted on Monday shows that the LPF has overtaken the ruling Social Democratic Party (PvdA) of Prime Minister Wim Kok. According to this poll, the LPF would take second place with 18.5 percent of the votes. That could give the LPF 28 of the country's 120 seats in parliament.

The LPF is trailing only by two percentage points behind the opposition Christian Democrats, whose support registers at 20.5 percent.

The poll suggests that support for the ruling Social Democratic PvdA has slid to 16.5 percent making it likely that the centre-left PvdA will lose its position as the country’s biggest party.

What's LPF without Pim Fortuyn?

But despite indications that a "sympathy vote" might swing the fortunes of the LPF and that the murder will unite Dutch people of every persuasion, the view that the LPF has lost its main attraction with the death of its leader is gaining strength.

Pim Fortuyn - the openly gay, ex-Sociology professor, opinionated right-wing columnist and later political consultant to the Dutch Christian Democrats – appeared on the Dutch political stage in February, 2002 when he founded his anti-immigration party.

Riding on a populist ticket, he transformed the normally dull, predictable Dutch politics with his flamboyant presence and highly controversial statements.

He became notorious for his remarks that Holland was "full" and could not afford to take in any more immigrants. He was also known to have a low tolerance for what he called an "intolerant" Islam because it militated against Dutch liberal traditions.

Despite his demagogic talk, Fortuyn’s popularity with the Dutch people suggested their weariness of cosy consensus-based politics that has governed the country for decades.

Difficult to emulate Fortuyn's brief but brilliant stint

Several political analysts now feel that after Fortuyn’s death the List Pim Fortuyn Party is hard pressed to find a reasonable replacement to fill in the shoes of its larger-than-life former leader.

Many believe that the party will now be reduced to just another right-wing movement spouting typical anti-immigrant rhetoric and pandering to the sentiments of young, unemployed Dutch citizens.

A fact that might now deter those who were overcome with sympathy for the party after the cold-blooded slaying of Pim Fortuyn last week.

A nation-wide straw poll conducted by the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblads recently showed that, of those who before the killing had said they would certainly vote for LPF, nearly half were now doubtful or had changed their intention.

Whatever the outcome of today's polls, Pim Fortuyn will be credited with shaking Dutch politics out of its complacency in death as in life.

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