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Zubaidah Nazeer
Sunday, Jul 13, 2014

Asia

Pollsters come under scrutiny

The Straits Times | Zubaidah Nazeer | Sunday, Jul 13, 2014

An Indonesian electoral official checking ballot information yesterday at a local election centre in Jakarta, a day after the presidential polls. Campaign teams on both sides have called on their supporters to be especially watchful at every stage of the vote tally.

With Indonesia's two presidential candidates using different quick count results to claim victory on Wednesday, questions are being asked about how credible or reliable the polling agencies that conduct such counts are.

This has led their umbrella group, the Indonesian Survey and Public Opinion Association (Persepi), to call for an audit of its members' data and for the data to be disclosed to the public.

Mr Hamdi Muluk, a Persepi member, said it would also start a probe into two polling agencies whose quick counts showed results that deviated from those of several other pollsters.

"This (the probe) is important so that the democratic process is not tarnished by opportunistic polling outfits that intentionally manipulate quick count results for their own narrow benefit," he told reporters late on Wednesday as the controversy began to brew.

Of the 11 polling agencies that reported their quick counts, seven named Mr Joko Widodo as the winner while four said Mr Prabowo Subianto had won.

This discrepancy led to the current dispute over election results and to some pollsters being accused of bias.

Quick counts, used in Indonesia since 1999, involve the parallel tabulation of votes by polling agents watching the actual counting at randomly selected polling centres.

They differ from exit polls, which rely solely on voters disclosing, truthfully or otherwise, whom they have picked as they leave the polling centre.

Indonesia is among a handful of countries in South-east Asia that allow quick counts, which are seen as helping to instil public confidence in the electoral process.

Since 2004, the number of pollsters in Indonesia has more than tripled.

There are now hundreds of them, including new ones outside Jakarta. They offer a host of services, from doing surveys to assessing a candidate's electability.

In Wednesday's election, well-known outfits such as Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting, Indikator Politik, Cyrus Network/ CSIS and LSI named Mr Joko as the winner, leading by up to 6 percentage points over Mr Prabowo.

Other pollsters such as Indonesia Research Centre, Puskaptis and Indonesia Voter Network had Mr Prabowo as the winner with a much narrower margin of less than 2 percentage points.

Both sides are now engaged in a war of words over the credibility of these outfits.

Persepi's secretary-general and executive director of polling outfit Charta Politika, Mr Yunarto Wijaya, said Puskaptis had a record of issuing incorrect results.

Mr Prabowo's brother Hashim Djojohadikusumo told foreign media last night that he was not affiliated with Puskaptis. But he alleged that at least three polling agencies, which he named, had been working for Mr Joko since he won the race for Jakarta governor in 2012.

He claimed he had proof that at least one pollster distributed money to canvass for votes for Mr Joko.

Mr Hashim also called it "offensive and irresponsible" for Mr Joko to imply that the Prabowo camp would cheat its way to winning the election.

zubaidah@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 11, 2014.
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