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Trump Finds Support In Europe From Only The Most Controversial Far-Right Leaders

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Nick Robins-Early

One of the originators of Europe's far-right populist movement came out in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Saturday. In a statement on Twitter, the 87-year-old former leader of France's National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, said that if he were American he would vote for Trump, and asked God to protect the candidate. 

Le Pen is one of very few European political figures to back Trump, whom politicians and the media on the continent more often regard with condemnation and confusion. The handful of politicians and groups who have voiced admiration for Trump represent the most controversial of Europe's conservative, populist and nationalist movements. 

Trump's rhetoric bears some similarities to the populist, anti-immigration attitude of parties such as the National Front or Poland's conservative Law and Justice party. Like Trump, analysts say, these parties have dragged the political debate in countries across Europe to the right by attempting to mainstream ethno-nationalist, anti-immigration views. The refugee and migrant crisis, along with economic turmoil, has contributed to some of these parties becoming powerful actors in their countries' politics in recent years.  

However, even among Europe's far-right political platforms, few politicians publicly support the leading U.S. Republican Party's presidential candidate. Often the Europeans have characterized Trump's plans as too extreme. Figures like Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Akesson -- whose party started in the late 1980s as a white supremacist group -- have openly opposed a Trump presidency. 

Current leader of the National Front and Le Pen's daughter, Marine Le Pen, has also separated herself from Trump's vows to bar all Muslims from entering the United States. Marine Le Pen has made a concerted effort to distance the National Front from the racist image that surrounds the party and her father, instead framing opposition to immigration as an economic issue. 

Even staunchly anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party leader Frauke Petry rejected Trump's call to ban Muslims as an unhelpful oversimplification of immigration issues. Earlier this year, she had suggested that German police should be allowed to shoot at migrants illegally crossing into the country.

These are the figures of Europe's far right who openly back Trump.

Jean-Marie Le Pen

Le Pen's tweet in support of Trump last week occurred at the same time that politicians, rights groups and the media criticized Trump for not disavowing the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

French courts have repeatedly accused Le Pen of racism, hate speech and contesting crimes against humanity. In 2012, he was convicted on the last of those charges after he said that the Nazi occupation of France wasn't "particularly inhumane."

In August 2015, Le Pen was kicked out of the National Front party that he founded, after a public dispute with his daughter. Late last month he posted an open letter threatening to start his own breakaway political organization to take on his daughter.

Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders, the leader of the populist, anti-immigration Dutch Freedom Party, tweeted in late December that he hoped Trump would be the next U.S. president.

Wilders' party has risen to record popularity in the Netherlands by campaigning for the country to exit the European Union and stop accepting refugees. Following the November 2015 Paris terror attacks, Wilders advocated for immediately closing the country's borders altogether.

In 2014, Wilders asked supporters at a political rally whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. The crowd chanted "fewer! fewer!" at an increasingly rapid rate, and Wilders promised to make sure that happened.

Matteo Salvini

Salvini, who leads Italy's anti-immigration Northern League, went as far as to call Trump "heroic" during a party gathering in December last year. Salvini has tripled the party's support in national polls to around 16 percent since taking over leadership of the party in 2013.

The party holds extremely anti-immigration views, and Salvini has called the euro a crime against humanity. In a rare move for an Italian politician, but one that Trump later matched, Salvini criticized Pope Francis last June for his pro-immigration views.

Pegida UK

Pegida UK supporters held "Trump is Right" signs at one of their marches in the city of Birmingham earlier this year. The group is the British affiliate of the German anti-Islam protest group.

Pegida has organized marches numbering in the tens of thousands in Germany to protest against Islam and immigration. During its rallies, supporters have held signs calling refugees rapists and advocating for Muslims to leave the country.

In January 2015, Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann stepped down after photos emerged of him dressed as Adolf Hitler. 

Editor's note: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist,birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.

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