Europe's Far-Right Aims for Germany and Austria After France Rejects Nationalism

The far-right is on course for catastrophic defeat in the French parliamentary elections on Sunday in a huge turnaround in its fortunes in the country. Hard-right populist parties, so recently within touching distance of power in several European countries, now have only a few opportunities left to make a significant breakthrough in Europe.

In April and May, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen challenged the liberal centrist Emmanuel Macron for the French presidency, losing only in the second and final round—marking the first time her National Front party had reached that stage of the contest.

But in the first round of the legislative election last Sunday, Marine Le Pen's National Front came in third with 13.2 percent of the vote, well behind Macron's Republic on the Move party, which took a landslide of about 32 percent.

The result will likely leave the National Front with about up to five lawmakers in the parliament at the final round next Sunday, not enough even to form a formal group, while Macron may take over 400 seats.

The collapse of Le Pen represents the second major defeat for a far-right party in Western Europe of 2017, after the anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders was pushed into second place in the Dutch election in March.

Related: How Geert Wilders lost power but gained influence in the Netherlands

In a year which some feared could see a wave of far-right populism sweep the continent, only two chances for a breakthrough now remain: elections to the German parliament in September and the Austrian in October.

In Germany, the hard-right anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) is polling around 9 percent; nowhere near enough to put it in government but over the 5 percent minimum it must reach to gain its first ever seats in the national parliament.

But in Austria, the Freedom Party (FPO), which only narrowly lost the election to the country's ceremonial presidency in December, is engaged in a three-way fight with the center-right People's Party.

Though it is currently polling in third place with 24 percent in the latest poll, behind the Social Democrats with 26 percent and the center-right People's Party with 34 percent, the Freedom Party could still play a role in a coalition under Austria's system.

The possibility of the far-right in government is not altogether outrageous either: The party, which counted former Nazis among its founders but has since broken with overt fascism, governed from 2000 to 2005. The far-right rule prompted the European Union, based on principles of unity established in the aftermath of World War II, and of which Austria is a member, to implement sanctions against the country.