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Slain Populist Voted Greatest Dutchman

Pim Fortuyn, the flamboyant anti-immigrant Dutch politician who was murdered in 2002, has been voted by television viewers in his home country as the "Greatest Dutchman of all time."

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Unapologetically right wing: Pim Fortuyn, the Greatest Dutchman

The slain right-wing anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn, who was gunned down on the street two years ago, was voted the "greatest Dutchman of all time" by public television viewers Monday.

The flamboyant Fortuyn was shot five times at close range as he left a radio studio in the central town of Hilversum on May 6, 2002, just 10 days before general elections with his far-right party set to make sweeping gains.

He had rattled the Dutch establishment with his open homosexuality and fiery anti-immigrant rhetoric based on his belief that the Netherlands could not absorb more foreigners. He also demanded tougher integration policies and criticised Muslim views on homosexuality and women and was widely accused of tapping into a wave of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by his detractors.

However, he also won over many voters who agreed with his attacks on political bureaucracy and calls for The Hague to pay more attention to the common man. Fortuyn's party soared to second place in a general election days after he was shot dead, but has since been torn apart by infighting.

The political mainstream has since adopted Fortuyn's ideas, with the center-right government cracking down on failed asylum seekers and demanding immigrants do more to integrate. Another maverick politician, Geert Wilders, seen by some as Fortuyn's heir, has recently surged in opinion polls. His party is currently polling about 13 percent.

Fortuyn's ideals still strike a chord

"The question is what meaning 'the greatest Dutchman' has for this society at this moment," said journalist Yoeri Albrecht, who was Fortuyn's advocate during the broadcast on the NOS public channel. "That's why Pim Fortuyn at this moment is the greatest Dutchman ... Just look at what happened in the last 14 days."

Filmregisseur Theo van Gogh erschossen

Theo van Gogh.

The television vote for "Greatest Dutchman" comes amid increasing anti-foreigner sentiment in the Netherlands in the wake of the Nov. 2 murder of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh, allegedly by an Islamic extremist, after his latest film accused Islam of promoting violence against women generated anger among the Muslim community.

The murder has put new strains on Dutch traditions of tolerance, with opinion polls showing the majority of Dutch people are uncomfortable with or feel threatened by the presence of foreigners.

Other nominees held strong pro-Dutch views

Viewers rated in second place prince William of Orange (English king William III), who helped keep the Netherlands out of French hands in the late 17th century. In third place came the late Willem Drees, prime minister from 1948 to 1958 and known affectionately as Vadertje Drees ("Father Drees") who presided over decolonization.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Also on the top ten list were Anne Frank of the wartime diaries fame, Vincent Van Gogh, the artist and a distant relative of murdered director Theo, humanist Erasmus, artist Rembrandt and soccer legend Johan Cruyff, the only living member of the greatest Dutchman list.Hundreds of millions of people voted by phone or internet over several weeks in support of their favorite. The final was played out on live television, allowing viewers to vote in several rounds of the competition. Each candidate was defended by a sponsor who extolled their qualities of "leadership," "heritage," "courage," "genius," and "humanity."

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