One Man's Journey to the Far Right

G"UNTER SCHAEFER is the kind of voter West Germany's far-right Republican Party is counting on. Dressed in a leather coat, he doesn't look as if he's been out of work six years - the result of medical problems and a failed business. He makes ends meet with the help of one of the world's most generous social safety nets.

But he's worried.

``Germany is not a country that can absorb many immigrants - it's just too small,'' he says.

He likes the Republican Party's stance on stemming immigration and tightening rules for granting political asylum. But those aren't the only reasons he's decided to join the party. A life-long supporter of the mainstream Christian Democrats, he says he's disappointed with the recent performance of West Berlin's conservative government - which took over from the Social Democrats in 1981.

Mr. Schaefer insists that he has nothing against foreigners. He lives in the working-class neighborhood of Wedding - which has one of the highest concentrations of foreigners in the city. Many of his friends and neighbors are Turkish, he says.

The government, says Schaefer, should allow more immigrants to settle in West Berlin only when housing and jobs are available for them.

``It's like starting a business,'' he says, ``you have to be prepared before you open the door.''

Schaefer emphasizes, however, that he's still undecided about whether the Republicans can do the job, confessing that he started paying close attention to them only after West Berlin's Jan. 29 election, in which the party took 7.5 percent of the vote.

``I'm going to go home and read this very carefully,'' he says, patting a pamphlet he picked up while filling out his party application. ``If there's anything in here I don't like, then I'm going to talk to them about it.''

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