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Dutch Vote on Schedule Despite Assassination - 2002-05-07

Netherlands Prime Minister Wim Kok Tuesday said general elections will go ahead as scheduled on May 15 despite the assassination of far-right politician Pim Fortuyn.

Mr. Kok made the announcement on Dutch television after meeting with representatives of all of the country's political parties.

Saying democracy cannot be bent by terror, Prime Minister Wim Kok said elections will take place as planned on May 15. He said he listened to other party leaders, especially those of the Pim Fortuyn List, the party of the slain politician. Its spokesman, Mat Herben, said his party's democracy-loving founder would have wanted the elections to go ahead. "It is in the best interest of everybody that the elections should be held in a very calm and dignified way," he said.

Prime Minister Wim Kok had called a meeting earlier on Tuesday to hear what Mr. Fortuyn's party had to say. He described the meeting to reporters afterward as "sincere, serious, precise listening to each other and that's the best message we possibly can give."

Prime Minister Kok seemed to be invoking the long Dutch tradition of consultation and tolerance, a self-perception that is being tested by Monday's events. He also appealed for calm, this following a night of unrest in The Hague, that resulted in 20 arrests and two car burnings by supporters of the far-right politician.

Pim Fortuyn rose to prominence only recently on a platform emphasizing crime fighting and, mostly, an end to immigration. "The Netherlands is full," Mr. Fortuyn had said. He also called Islam a "backward culture." Yet his popularity was growing and his party was expected to play a major role in the formation of the next coalition government.

Police have arrested a suspect in the murder, a 32-year-old white man of Dutch nationality. Prosecutors say a search of the man's home found material concerning environmental activism, but made no link between that and the crime. They did, however, find ammunition that matched the caliber of the casings found near Mr. Fortuyn's body. The suspect, whose name is being withheld and who has refused to give prosecutors a statement, will make his first court appearance Wednesday in Amsterdam.