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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs  4 July 2014  

Poll surveys indicate tight race in Indonesia`s presidential election

Last year, various media reports described presidential hopeful Joko Widodo (Jokowi) as the strongest frontrunner in the July election in Indonesia, as he was the most favored candidate due to his humble and down-to-earth attitude.
Jokowi was believed to win the presidential race easily as poll surveys revealed that his electability rate was far ahead of any potential rivals, including Prabowo Subianto. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jokowis electability rate was 58.2 percent compared to Prabowos only 19.3 percent in November 2013.
"The Jokowi phenomenon is too strong that it has reduced the number of Prabowos voters," Philips L Vermonte of CSIS told DetikNews on December 1, 2013.
It seemed that various poll surveys and media reports highly favoring Jokowi had succeeded in influencing other potential presidential candidates to think twice before running for presidency. And, finally, only Prabowo dared to go ahead and confront Jokowi.
Almost 200 million Indonesians will exercise their franchise on July 9, 2014, according to their choices--either Prabowo and his running mate Hatta Rajasa or Jokowi and his pair M Jusuf Kalla (JK). The pre-election campaign period is between June 4 and July 5, 2014.
Prabowo is a retired military general and the founder of Gerindra (Great Indonesia Movement) Party, while Hatta Rajasa is a former coordinating minister for economic affairs and the chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN).
Jokowi is Jakartas governor and a cadre of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), and JK is a former vice president, businessman, and a senior politician of the Golkar Party.
The Jokowi-JK pair is supported by five political parties: the Indonesia Democratic Party Struggle (PDIP), the Nation Awakening Party (PKB), the Peoples Conscience Party (Hanura), the Justice and Indonesian Unity Party (PKPI), and the National Democrats Party (Nasdem).
The Prabowo-Hatta duo is supported by Gerindra, PAN, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP), the Moon and Star Party (PBB), the Golkar Party, and the ruling Democratic Party (PD).
Even as the election process is underway and the polling day is approaching, the condition is believed to have shifted. The presidential race has become quite tough. Some poll surveys indicated that the electability of Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa duo had increased steadily.
The Jakarta Survey Institute (LSJ), for instance, on July 1, 2014, released the results of its recent survey indicating that the Prabowo-Hatta pair had a 47.5 percent electability statistics, while the Jokowi-JK duo had 41.3 percent.
A spokesman of the Jokowi Success Team said in a press statement on July 1, 2014, that Jokowis electability drop was likely due to smear campaigns against the presidential hopeful.
"Smear campaigns, intimidation, and information manipulation have influenced public perception," Tjahjo Kumolo, chairman of the Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla (JK) Success Team and a senior politician of PDIP, said.
As smear campaigns, such as those carried out by Obor Rakyat tabloid, were rampant, the gap in the electability rates of Jokowi and his rival, Prabowo, had narrowed down, he said.
Jokowi earlier stated that his team of lawyers had filed a police report over the libelous "Obor Rakyat" tabloid recently. "The tabloid contains black campaign. This is a criminal act. That is why our team of lawyers has filed the police report," Jokowi claimed.
He remarked that the tabloids contents have discredited him and his pair, JK. He further reiterated that he can differentiate fair news items from the unfair and libelous ones.
The police have started investigation into the libel lawsuit filed by Jokowis team of lawyers against "Obor Rakyat" tabloid, stated Police Chief General Sutarman. "We have summoned a number of witnesses in connection with the case," Sutarman noted recently.
General Sutarman pointed out that those responsible for publishing the libelous news items were subject to law enforcement under the violation of the press law, criminal code, and election law. In handling this lawsuit, the police are working closely with the Press Council, Sutarman stated, adding that his men will remain professional and free from any intervention because "everybody is equal before the law."
A different opinion was voiced by Amir Hamzah, urban and political observer of the Budgeting Metropolitan Watch, who said that the decline in the electability of Jokowi was caused by his inactive political machinery and his own personal leadership.
"The reason for the decline in his electability as revealed by a number of surveys is because of the inactive political machinery of his alliance and internal rift within the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP). But the most dominant factor lies with Jokowi himself," Hamzah said recently.
He noted that the public were now smart enough to assess the true performance of Jokowi. This has caused a decline in his electability.
"He works not in accordance with the system. His "blusukan" (meet-the-people style of interacting with constituents) habit, for example, could cause some 100 letters being ignored and work being stopped," he said.
Said Salahudin, the director of the Public Synergy for Indonesian Democracy (Sigma), however, said a steady increase in Prabowos electability rating can be attributed to the presidential and vice presidential debates organized by the General Elections Commission (KPU).
"Swing voters who were influenced by the candidates performance during the debates contributed significantly to Prabowos electability rating," Salahudin claimed on July 1, 2014.
Prabowo and his running mate, vice presidential candidate Hatta Rajasa, had appeared convincing during the debates, although they did not always win by a landslide, Salahudin remarked.
"If Prabowo is able to appear optimistic in the upcoming last debate, it is possible that the remaining swing voters will give their votes (to him)," he pointed out.
Prabowo and Jokowi will appear in the last round of the presidential debate on July 5, 2014, the third debate organized for the presidential and vice presidential candidates during the presidential campaign period.
Iswandi Syahputra of the Yogyakarta-based Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN) agreed that Prabowos great spirit in the three presidential candidate debates had raised his electability.
"In several debates, Prabowo had won on at least three occasions against his rival Jokowi. Prabowo said the truth of what is considered true," Iswandi Syahputra said recently.
The rivalry of the two presidential hopefuls this year was the first in Indonesias democratic election after five pairings in 2004 and three pairings in 2009. The polarization of the public and media supporting Prabowo-Hatta or Jokowi-JK is very obvious.
The nation has been "divided" during the race, and hopefully, whoever wins the election will not disappoint the whole nation in general, and in particular supporters who have fought fiercely defending their candidates during the campaign period.

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