A credible new poll has injected hope into Jakarta governor Joko Widodo’s presidential campaign, showing that he’s rebounded from a slump to a moderately convincing 3.6 percentage-point lead over his opponent, Prabowo Subianto.
The poll suggests Mr Joko, the former runaway favourite, will squeak a narrow victory. However, the poll's margin of error is plus or minus 2 per cent, and 8 per cent of voters remained undecided in the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) survey taken between July 2 and 5.
Final preparations for Indonesian election
RAW VISION: Indonesia is set to hold its presidential election, pitting the popular Jakarta Governor, Joko Widodo, against a former special forces commander.
More than 1.2 million police, army and civilian “community guards” will be deployed across the Indonesian archipelago on polling day on Wednesday as Army Chief of Staff General Budiman warns that a very close result is likely to lead to tensions.
“We are getting more alert because the voting gap [between the two candidates] is likely to be very small,” General Budiman said.
“If the quick count [polls that give results well in advance of official results] … show more than a 5 per cent difference, I think the situation will be much safer,” he said on Sunday. Otherwise, “the potential conflicts between supporters of both camps are high".
The National Police Chief, General Sutarman, said the police would position 30,000 officers around Jakarta to protect it on Wednesday, and 250,000 nationwide. Another 35,000 military personnel and 900,000 civilian community guards (Linmas) would be deployed.
Mr Prabowo, a former military strongman, has in the past called into question the accuracy of voting lists. In recent days he has said both that “losing is not an option,” and also, to voters: “We will respect your decision”.
LSI revealed on Monday for the first time how deep Mr Joko’s slump was at the end of June, saying its own survey showed him just 0.5 of a point ahead of Mr Prabowo — well within the margin for error. A spokeswoman for LSI said on Monday that the poll had been withheld from publication “for technical reasons”.
A number of other credible polling institutions also withheld their polls at the same time, leading to strong speculation that they were protecting Mr Joko from the news that Mr Prabowo’s momentum now made him the favourite.
The late June polls were taken as Mr Prabowo’s barnstorming tour of Indonesia was at its peak, and Mr Joko seemed to have no answer.
But a strong final week of the campaign for Mr Joko, including a tour through populous Java, appears to have made up some of the lost ground.
The LSI poll shows Mr Joko with 47.8 per cent support and Mr Prabowo with 44.2 per cent, and 8 per cent undecided. It involved 2400 face-to-face interviews in 33 provinces.
A press release to announce the poll reveals that, a week earlier, in a poll taken between June 25 and 29, the numbers had been 43.5 per cent for Mr Joko and 43 per cent for Mr Prabowo.
In a press release on Monday, LSI, which is headed by pollster Denny Januar Ali, described the turnaround as a “resurrection”. The survey ended before the fifth presidential debate, which was also scored as a clear win to Mr Joko and running mate Jusuf Kalla.
The election will be held on Wednesday and, officially at least, all campaign activity should have now stopped to observe a “quiet period”. Mr Joko travelled to Mecca to pray and contemplate, he said, though some speculated he wanted to counter a damaging smear campaign that alleged he was a Christian born of Chinese parents.
The new survey shows Mr Joko has a convincing lead among women and a thin lead among men. Rural and urban voters are now almost equally breaking for him, though religious Muslim voters narrowly favour Mr Prabowo, whose coalition includes a number of Islamic parties.
Mr Prabowo, a multimillionaire with access to a private jet and a helicopter, had a significantly better resourced, more organised campaign, and his party, Gerindra, worked harder than his rival’s. Much of the heavy lifting in Mr Joko’s campaign was done by large groups of local volunteers.