In a Vote With a Single-Digit Margin, Quick Count Pollsters Come Under Close Scrutiny

Presidential candidate Joko Widodo prepares to cast his ballot in Jakarta on July 9, 2014. (Reuters Photo/Darren

By : Josua Gantan | on 11:37 AM July 10, 2014
Category : News, Politics, Featured

polls Both presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo have declared themselves the winner of what had been the tightest presidential election in Indonesia’s history on Wednesday.

“Based on quick count results by polling institutions we use as benchmarks, we have received a mandate from the people of Indonesia,” Prabowo informed reporters at a televised press conference, triggering cheers from the political backers standing behind him, and sending an entire nation into confusion.

For less than an hour prior to the former lieutenant general’s announcement, rival contender Joko had also claimed victory, citing preliminary data from several polling firms.

“We are grateful that the quick count results show Joko-Jusuf Kalla is the winner [of the election],” Joko told reporters and millions of citizens across the country glued to their television screens.

Armed with different quick count results — and choosing to pay heed to those in their own favor — both camps had stepped forward to claim the presidency.

Polarized pollsters

Of the numerous pollsters that conducted quick counts on Wednesday, as many as seven declared Joko victorious, while at least another four reported the opposite.

Aleksius Jemadu, a political analyst from Pelita Harapan University emphasized the importance of looking at each polling company’s track record to discern their credibility.

“It comes down to the company’s reputation and credibility,” Aleksius said.

In the same vein, political analyst from the University of Indonesia (UI) Adrinof Chaniago singled out the firms whose data had supported a Prabowo victory, calling them “dubious.”

Adrinof may have been referring to the Center for Policy and Strategic Development (Puskaptis), whose director Husin Yazid was taken into police custody last year after the firm released questionable quick count results for the South Sumatra gubernatorial election.

Meanwhile, institutions placing Joko in the lead have proven themselves to be more consistent in delivering accurate election results, Aleksius added.

“Those [pollsters] whose data said Joko won, there is no doubt in their credibility; they are professional,” Aleksius said. “[The polling companies’ track records] account for the discrepancy in the results, I would say.”

In the interest of fairness, Aleksius urged all survey institutes involved in the election to conduct their projections with a high-degree of transparency.

Political analyst from Gadjah Mada University Arie Sujito argued that the polls showing Joko winning give him a 5 percent lead, but those showing Prabowo leading give him just 2 percent lead.

Similarly, Andrinof suggested that if the General Elections Committee were to consolidate all of the quick count results, Joko would still be the clear winner.

“I am convinced that Joko-Kalla are the victors,” he said, but condeded that the pair have won by a “slim margin.”

“Contradictory claims are to expected,” Arie said, until KPU announces the official result on 22 July.

Until then, Indonesians will have to wait in anticipation.

Potential conflict

Aleksius said there was the potential for conflict in the wake of the election, despite the fact that past presidential elections since the fall of the strongman Suharto in 1998 had been generally conflict-free.

Several factors make things different this time around, including the fact that there are only two candidates running, whereas the 2004 and 2009 elections had five and three candidates, respectively.

In addition, Prabowo and Joko have been running neck-and-neck in recent opinion polls, giving each side a legitimate expectation of victory, Aleksius said.

“The problem is that in our previous elections, the margin between the winning and the losing candidates was considerably large. It was never neck-and-neck like today,” he said.

He said the lack of conflicts on Wednesday belied the “real potential” for violent disputes if the political elites who refused to concede defeat chose to “stir dissent” among the people.

“At the grassroots level, I’m not worried. What I am worried about, though, are the elites who can make use of the people,” he said. “The potential for conflict lies with these elites who are not mature enough to be democratic. It will be dangerous if they make statements that can trigger conflicts. They have to stay calm, not be provocative and not create controversy. We have to let the KPU settle the matter. The KPU’s credibility is at stake here.”

Arie agreed there was a possibility for politically engineered unrest.

“Today’s election was relatively peaceful, but we saw tensions rise following the conflicting claims to victory made by either side based on the quick counts,” he said. “The people are mature enough, but it is the losing political elites who are not mature.”

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