Despite her massive loss, Marine Le Pen’s different strategy may be gradually working. Although the party opposes same-sex marriage, a 2015 poll showed that support for her party among gay couples rose from 19 percent in 2012 to 32 percent in 2015 — right after the November terrorist attacks in Paris.
“If you look at the history of the National Front, it was always a homophobic party — but with lots of homosexuals,” said Frédéric Martel, author of “The Pink and the Black: Homosexuals in France since 1968.”
Enter Germany’s Weidel, who last month was selected to help lead the AfD and is now tasked with helping the party avoid political implosion.
Founded in 2013 on the back of German angst over bailouts for Greece, the AfD morphed during the refugee crisis into an anti-immigrant nationalist movement that has opposed the building of new mosques and advocates leaving the euro currency union. Should the AfD crash and burn following losses by nationalists in the Netherlands and France, it would amount to a massive setback for the far right in Europe.
After strong gains last year in local elections, the AfD has taken a severe hit in recent months, with its poll numbers falling to single digits. Its problems came after explosive remarks by one of its prominent politicians, Björn Höcke, who appeared to play down Germany’s World War II guilt and Adolf Hitler’s atrocities.
Besides turning off potential supporters, his comments fueled a tug of war between moderates and hard-liners for the soul of the party. Caught up in the dispute, Frauke Petry, the face of the party, abruptly announced last month that she would step aside as its lead candidate.
In her place, the AfD elected two replacements: the more moderate Weidel and a hard-liner, Alexander Gauland, 76. Weidel concedes that it was an attempt to appease both sides of the movement.
Since then, some of her fiercest critics have been German gay groups. Markus Ulrich, spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, dismissed Weidel’s election as a “clever strategy” meant to distract from the AfD’s hard-line platform.
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