In the Netherlands, violence against politicians is on the rise

Violence, verbal or physical, is a discovery for a country that experienced the death of populist Pim Fortuyn in 2002 as a trauma but believed that this assassination, committed by an environmental activist, would remain a isolated fact.

A new phenomenon grips the well-oiled functioning of the Dutch machinery and it surprises by its magnitude: violence against politicians is gaining in intensity and surprises the actors of a society adept at consensus and experienced in compromise, even the most twisted.

In 2018, the last year for which reliable data is available, 620 complaints were lodged with the prosecutor’s office in The Hague, the political capital of the kingdom. The section “Politicians under threat”, which was specially constituted there, investigated 362 acts deemed punishable. Violence, verbal or physical, is however a discovery for a country that experienced the death of populist Pim Fortuyn in 2002 as a trauma but believed that this assassination, committed by an environmental activist, would remain an isolated fact.

Country traumatized by the death of Pim Fortuyn

Subsequently the numerous threats against one of the heirs of the tribune, Geert Wilders, were attributed to the violent speech made by the latter towards the Muslims, then of all those who criticized his extremist remarks. The leader of the Freedom Party has lived for sixteen years in a “safe house”, his offices in parliament are under high protection and he never goes – even to the toilet – without being surrounded by half a dozen bodyguards . Each month, the MP files hundreds of complaints, the vast majority of which are dismissed because the perpetrators of the threats often live abroad. In August 2019, however, a Pakistani man was arrested at The Hague station and sentenced to ten years in prison. He had announced, on Facebook, a plan to attack the elected official.

Much more moderate politicians are now the target of the discontented. Nearly half of which are people suffering from disturbances or frustration with the functioning of society, according to a survey by the national counterterrorism coordinator. Today, the radicalization of all malcontents is accelerating, explained to the daily NRC Handelsblad , Hans Boutellier, who studies the phenomena of polarization at the Free University of Amsterdam. In a society which favors pragmatism above all – a “pragmacracy” says this specialist – to the detriment of ideas and emotion, it becomes more and more difficult to express a criticism or a dissenting point. And this leads to the rise of speeches, and acts, violent.

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