The murder of the flamboyant right-winger Pim Fortuyn has not only robbed this week's Dutch election of any fire, it may also extinguish the prospect of a large protest vote for his anti-immigration party.
Disarray has broken out in the LPF (Lijst Pim Fortuyn) party, which had been tipped to take 20 seats or more before the politician was shot dead by an extreme animal rights activist on Monday. Prominent senior members, including a co-founder, have already left a party that was built so clearly around one man. Mr Fortuyn's brother Martin has called for Lijst Pim Fortuyn to be disbanded, predicting political "chaos" and saying that without his brother there was no point in its existence.
In the absence of formal opinion polling suspended after the murder of Mr Fortuyn the impact of his death on voting intentions is still unclear. But in a nationwide survey by the NRC Handelsblad newspaper, only two of the 345 voters who had previously said they would not vote for Mr Fortuyn's party had changed their minds since the killing. Of those who had previously said they would vote for him, 23 per cent said that with their hero dead, they would return to parties they had previously supported. Another 22 per cent were undecided.
All the Dutch political parties agreed to continue the suspension of their campaigns and all debates on election issues as a mark of respect to the leader of the LPF. The sober mood, following days of national mourning for Mr Fortuyn, extends to a decision to dispense with music and celebrations at party gatherings after Wednesday's vote.
In the wake of Mr Fortuyn's killing, the rise of the National Front in France and racial unrest in Britain, ministers in London are spearheading a Europe-wide fight against far-right extremism. The Home Office Minister, John Denham, wants fellow Europeans to work together to find common solutions to shared problems on race. With the backing of the Prime Minister, Mr Denham has secured support from ministers across Europe for his social cohesion project.
An inaugural meeting is to be held in Britain shortly and the group, expected to comprise ministers, officials, community organisations and young people, will then move to other European locations.
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