The CDU expects to maintain power in this year's election, with Angela Merkel holding onto high approval ratings along with its party polling strongly.
In December 2012, she maintained the party leadership by winning 97% of her party's support. Her speech at the time showed a willingness for her party to work with the left, a sign that she understands the changing demographic for the next election. This change may just be a flash in the pan if we look at the statistics.
The CDU are a flexible party. Angela Merkel spent her first term in coalition with her rivals the SPD in a grand coalition. At the time neither parties were able to form coalitions with their traditional partners. This year the CDU will also struggle. Its usual ally, the Free Democratic Party (FDP) are polling under the 5% threshold. Rather than ask her supporters to split their vote to support the FDP, Merkel is shoring up her support base on the other side.
She has softened her stance on a minimum wage and childcare and did a complete turnaround on her nuclear policy only months after fully endorsing nuclear power. Nuclear power was the last barrier to a coalition with the Greens. By pre-emptively making it a non-issue, Merkel has paved the way for a possible Greens CDU coalition.
This shift to the left shows a recognition of the changing demographic at this year's election. Commentators believe the CDU is trying to reach younger voters, in a sign that their votes are gradually becoming more important. The CDU has always polled strong among the older votes, with the age groups of 60 to 69 being its bread and butter. Younger voters vote left, and so by leaning more to the left the CDU can shore up support in a traditional weak area.
This change is likely to be short-lived. The CDU need the left to form a government this election. The FDP is in chaos and Merkel is unable to rely on their support. A slight shift to the left now makes it easier for its opponents on the left to justify a coalition. However, a long term look at Germany's demographic shows that this shift is more reactionary than visionary.
Germany has an aging population. Forecasts show a strong trend towards an older society with a shrinking population. By 2060 Germany's population is expected to sink by 20% to 65 million people. Its working age population will drop 27% to 36 million people. This decrease along with low birth rates mean a larger proportion of Germany's demographic will be older. The CDU stands to benefit from this.
A study of Germany's population and its effect on the political landscape shows the CDU gaining support and the Greens and the SPD losing out. Looking at both the cohort and life-style effect, the study tracks both the CDU and the FDP gaining up to 1% over its rivals from 2013 to 2049. The life-cycle effect assumes the voting behaviours is determined by age-related needs and demands, where-as the cohort effect assumes people born of the same time exhibit similar voting behaviour and that this behaviour is stable.
Even taking both factors into account, Germany's aging population tips the political balance firmly in the CDU's favour over the next 30 years. Elections are still subject to fluctuation, with public mood sometimes making the difference. A long term increase of one percent is still significant and is alarming for the left wing parties currently making in-roads on the CDU's polls. It means Germany's current leftist parties face an uphill battle over the next 30 years and a possible need to adopt more right wing policies to hold onto their current support base as it ages.
Angela Merkel is intelligent enough to know when she needs someone. She has put the pieces in place to maintain power. If Germany continues to age, then she may not need to make the same moves next time around.