Paedophiles have tested the limits of Dutch tolerance with a plan to launch a political party to push for a cut in the legal age of consent and legalisation of pornography featuring young people.
The group, which is due to be registered this week, said it wants the consent age dropped from 16 to 12, before having it scrapped completely. It also proposes to make child pornography and sex with animals legal.
The move to set up the NVD Party (which says it stands for love of one's fellow man, freedom and diversity) has provoked condemnation from politicians, demands for a government ban and protests from the public on websites.
One of the founders of the NVD, Ad van den Berg, 62, told the Dutch newspaper de Telegraaf that the fledgling party has been swamped with telephone calls from concerned people. "We have a lot of explaining to do," he admitted.
Mr Van den Berg said he is surprised by the reactions. "Ten years ago we were on speaking terms with society," he said, "but ever since the Dutroux-affair [a notorious child killer jailed in 2004] in Belgium, nothing has been open for discussion. Society just ignores us." According to Mr Van den Berg the only way to make their paedophiles' voice heard was via politics.
On its website, the party says children should legally be able to have sex from the age of 12 as long as they provide consent. The NVD says it also wants to introduce a quality mark for child pornography. An independent committee should judge if the children had been coerced.
The party also wants to abolish the Dutch Senate, introduce a chosen prime minister, legalise soft and hard drugs, as well as indecent exposure, and have two-time murderers automatically jailed for life.
Lousewies van der Laan, the leader of the D66 Liberal Party, said "these people need a psychiatrist, not a political party". The right-wing MP Geert Wilders asked the Dutch Interior and Justice ministries to look at options for banning a party with "such sick ideas". That request was backed by the Christian party SGP, which urged the cabinet to "look at all possibilities to ban this absolutely disgusting initiative".
Meanwhile Rita Verdonk, the architect of a host of tough Dutch immigration policies, last night lost her bid to lead the country's VVD Liberal Party.
Ms Verdonk, known as the "iron lady" of the Netherlands, had hoped her election as party leader might pave her way to become the next prime minister. But she appeared to pay the price for her role as Immigration Minister in threatening to strip the Somali-born critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, of her Dutch citizenship. Ms Hirsi Ali, who had admitted lying on her asylum application 14 years ago, was an ally of the murdered film-maker, Theo Van Gogh. Ms Verdonk's decision divided the nation and was criticised by several political allies.
Despite predictions that her tough stance on immigration would bring Ms Verdonk victory, the 40,000-strong party membership backed Mark Rutte, the education minister. Regarded as a more elegant debater, he won 51 per cent of the vote to Ms Verdonk's 46.
Ms Verdonk, a populist, has as Immigration Minister drawn up new tests on language and culture for immigrants. She also refused to pardon 26,000 asylum-seekers who have been living in the Netherlands for more than five years.Reuse content