For Germany's two major parties, the obvious lesson to be learned from a right-wing resurgence in two key by-elections last week is that something must be done to stem a flood of immigrants and asylum-seekers. More than 400,000 persons pouring in this year from Eastern Europe and the Third World are overwhelming the nation's ability to maintain an open-door policy. As a result, liberal ideals invoked to counter memories of the Hitler era are, instead, creating conditions on which hatred and bigotry flourish.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats and the opposition Social Democrats have been playing games with the asylum issue for months, in hope of gaining political advantage. Such tactics boomeranged on both parties April 5 when each lost ground in provincial strongholds to right-wing parties capitalizing on popular resentment toward foreigners.
The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) agree that Germany cannot absorb or afford so large an influx. But the CDU has been insisting on a change in the constitution while the SPD has been loath to retreat from what is seen as one of the anti-Nazi bulwarks of post-war Germany. Now, for their mutual self-preservation, an accommodation is being sought.