Analysis : Gunning engines in the political race

Posted on April 25, 2012

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Debnath Guharoy, Roy Morgan | Tue, 04/24/2012 12:56 PM

Two years away from the polls, the warm-up laps have begun for the parliamentary and presidential races. Ignition on, pistons are getting heated up.

In recent weeks, NasDem have formally emerged as a force to be reckoned with, now ranked No. 9 as a political party. The Golkar machine has been working overtime, grabbing headlines good and bad, scoring 16 percent of intentions and climbing to No. 2. Still ranked No. 1, the Democratic Party continued their slide downhill with only 20 percent. PDI-P went down too, now at No. 3 with 12 percent. Cadres working at the grassroots level have helped catapult Gerindra to No. 4, with 7 percent. PAN moved up to No. 5, with 6. But the prospects of the religiously-influenced parties continue to shrink in the chase for seats in Indonesia’s House of Representatives (DPR).

Asked to choose from a realistic list of 10 presidential hopefuls, respondents from around the country made the picture crystal clear. The opinion poll conducted during the month of March reconfirmed Gerindra’s Prabowo Subianto as the “most likely” choice, with 20 percent of all voters eligible in 2014 giving him the nod. When asked for any other candidate the respondents would consider, the support for military man-turned-businessman-turned-politician increased to 34 percent of voting intentions. He is closely followed by businessman-turned-politician Aburizal Bakrie of Golkar. He scored 19 percent of the “most-likely” vote, climbing to 28 percent of the combined tally. In third place is Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, with 11 percent of “most likely” climbing to 24 percent with “would consider” added in. The gap then widens before Hatta Rajasa, Surya Paloh and Ani Yudhoyono register their presence with single-digit shares of “most likely” voting intentions.

This is the situation, as of March. As soon as the Democrats announce their presidential candidate, it is expected to have a major impact on public opinion. That will mark the real beginning of the contest. Shifts will emerge, new alliances between parties could also tip the scales. When some on the list declare their intention not to run, the scores will change again.

These are some of the key findings of the APAPC Monthly Political Monitor, a neutral survey available to all interested groups ranging from political parties to media outlets. Commissioned by the Asia Pacific Association of Political Consultants and conducted by Roy Morgan Research, the survey was tested during January and February and formally launched with the March edition. APAPC is the regional arm of the low-profile Washington-based International Association of Political Consultants, whose primary mission is to promote democracy in all five continents. Members hail from more than 40 countries.

In 2007, President Yudhoyono received the association’s Freedom Medal on behalf of Indonesia. The medal was awarded in recognition of the progress the country had made in its transition from dictatorship, proving to the world at large that Islam and democracy can coexist. By commissioning the monthly political monitor, APAPC is continuing its mission to promote democracy. The freedom enjoyed today by the country’s press, a vital pillar of an open society, is perhaps one of the biggest triumphs of this presidency. Concentration of media ownership remains a cause for concern but a neutral poll should add some degree of credibility to the real voice of the people.

And the people are indeed keen to exercise their right. While six out of ten Indonesians aren’t really interested in politics per se, seven out of ten say they regularly vote. Healthy numbers, for any democracy anywhere where voting isn’t compulsory. These are early days, more than two years away from the parliamentary and presidential races, but interest is beginning to climb. In March, only 23 percent of respondents remained “undecided” in their “most likely” choice of president. Everybody else seems to have their minds made up, at least for now. The starting gun has gone off, the race has begun. The APAPC poll will track the changing fortunes, each month, right through to the end.

The backdrop of the forthcoming elections is also changing. More and more Indonesians believe that “the country is heading in the wrong direction”, climbing from 34 to 40 percent during January to March. Illustrating the voter’s capacity to distinguish between political and economic circumstances, the KADIN-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence index continues to soar at record highs. Factors such as the price of fuel and essential commodities will continue to influence the tides. But the Indonesian consumer has learnt to wear a different hat when he or she turns voter. People in power will get more brickbats for political scandals than kudos for economic success.

The monthly APAPC Monthly Political Monitor for March comprised 2,019 face-to-face interviews conducted in 17 provinces that are home to 87 percent of the electorate. These provinces are also the home of 83 percent of the DAPILs or “Daerah Pilihan” and 464 of the 560 parliamentary seats or “Kursi DPR”. The writer is also one of several directors on the board of APAPC.

The writer can be contacted at debnath.guharoy@roymorgan.com

Posted in: Politik