By Melinda Mills @melindacmills
As the love of Valentine’s Day wanes, we turn back to our lives, which as of late have been dominated by politicians. Love and politics are closer together than you think . I am referring to none other than the President of the United States Donald Trump, Geert Wilders, current leader in the polls for the upcoming March 15th Dutch general election, and the UK’s former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, who was a strong Brexit campaigner. Although France’s Presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen slightly breaks the mould, she receives an honourable mention.
What do these leaders have in common? If you are thinking of Brexit, Nexit, Frexit, Mexit (for Mexico) or anti-immigrant rhetoric – that’s too easy.
What do these leaders have in common? It’s love. Lots of love. An overwhelming love of immigrants.
Don’t believe me? Let me walk you through the facts of what these leaders have in common in the bedroom (don’t worry, no detailed references to leaked sex videos).
When it comes to love, Trump, Wilders and Farage are comrades in being married multiple times, married to (at least one) immigrant and with a striking preference for Eastern European partners. Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen are front-runners with 3 marriages each. Wilders and Farage trail at a paltry 2 per person. The men in this pool also have something in common that is quite ironic – a penchant for immigrant wives. Others have noted this for Trump, but the connection between his counterparts has remained elusive (see for example CNN).
Donald Trump (USA)
Donald Trump was first married to Ivana Zelníčková (1977-1992), a Czech who moved to Canada in 1973 and then to New York in 1976. Melania Knavs is actually Melanija (but perhaps the foreign name was too hard to spell or pronounce?) She arrived in 1996 in New York from Slovenia (at that time, from a town in the former Yugoslavia), went back yearly to renew her visa, obtained a Green Card and permanent residency in 2001 and became a US citizen a year after marrying Trump in 2006. Ivana naturalized as a US citizen in 1987, 11 years after she married Trump in 1977. If we do the maths (or math as North Americans would say), strictly counting years after US citizenship, Trump was married to ‘an immigrant’ for a combined 12 years of his life.
Geert Wilders (the Netherlands)
Geert Wilders of the Netherlands has also married twice, first for 2 years with his high school sweetheart from his hometown of Venlo and later in 1991 to Hungarian citizen Krisztina Marfai Arib in Budapest. (Was it cheaper to hold the wedding there?). Although Wilders is against double nationality, there remains a lack of clarity over whether she holds both Dutch and Hungarian nationality or even Dutch nationality. Wilders trumps Trump, however, with marriage to ‘an immigrant’ for 26 years.
Photo (Wilders and Arib): https://www.flickr.com/photos/60886257@N05/sets/72157627588833903/
Nigel Farage (UK)
Nigel Farage was also married twice, first to Irish Nurse Gráinne Hayes (1988-1997) and then later to German national Kirsten Mehr (1999-present, although if you read the gossip columns, things are a bit rocky as of late). Mehr was born in Hamburg, placing Farage at second with 16 years of ‘immigrant love.’
Photo: Twitter and https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/farage-quits-as-ukip-leader-saying-my-ambition-is-achieved/
Together Trump, Wilders and Farage have been married to immigrants for around 54 years. That’s the average life expectancy of men in Somalia in 2014.
Marine Le Pen (France)
We should also give an honourable mention to France’s Presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen. She joins Trump’s league of love with a total of 3 husbands (Franck Chauffroy, 1995-2000; Eric Lorio 2002-2006; Louis Aliot, 2009-present – actually ‘domestic partner’), but rather disappointedly breaks what appeared to be a trend of immigrant partners. The striking consistency in her partner choice is that all were employees of her political party Front National. The only parallel I can reach for here is that Farage once hired Mehr as his own parliamentary secretary. I don’t know about you, but the New Year’s photo of Le Pen and Aliot looks photo-shopped to me.
The lessons learned? Even those who profess to hate immigrants the most appear to have a weakness for them. Love can come from mysterious places.
Melinda Mills is a Professor at the University of Oxford, but all views presented here are solely her own. She aims to present the facts, and show the cracks. All views are in no way a reflection of the opinion of the University of Oxford or Nuffield College, nor are they endorsed by these institutions in any way.
Photo of Donald and Melanie Trump by Marc Nozell from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/marcn/24289654894