Voters value candidate’s integrity over political party – Survey

Kompas – April 15, 2008
2008 West Java regional election ballot paper (unikom)
2008 West Java regional election ballot paper (unikom)

Suwardiman – In the recent West Java election of regional heads, many respondents determined their choice just a week before voting. One out of five voters or around 20.4 percent only determined their choice on voting day itself and 22.2 percent only determined their choice 1-7 days beforehand. This phenomenon indicates that voters are struggling to make the critical decision in the final days before the vote.

This was the conclusion that was drawn from a post-voting or exit poll survey carried out by Kompas Research & Development (Litbang Kompas) of 1,194 voters in the West Java election of regional heads (Pilkada Jabar). The respondents questioned were spread across 26 regencies and municipalities throughout West Java in the gubernatorial elections that took place on Sunday April 13.

The competence and personage of the candidate governor and deputy governor was a far more important factor in determining the public’s choice rather than the political vehicle or political party supporting the candidates. Leadership qualities and moral integrity was the most important element in deciding which candidate the public would direct their vote to.

As many as 24.8 percent of respondents stated that the leadership qualities of candidates was the most important thing in determining their vote. It so happens that the other 24.4 percent of respondents said that the moral integrity of the candidates was their most important concern.

Political education, which is more open at the moment, resulted in the West Java public being more critical and able to more objectively asses the performance of the existing administration. If the administration currently in office failed to fulfil their expectations, the public will look for alternative figures that they consider more capable of bringing about change.

The majority of the West Java public, around 57.8 percent that were netting in this survey said that they were dissatisfied with the leadership of the previous governor and deputy governor. Only 31 percent of respondents said the opposite. As many as 76.8 percent of respondents on the other hand, believe that the development that has been taking place in the province up until now has yet to fulfil their expectations.

The results of a quick count conducted by Litbang Kompas and other research institutions indicate that governor and deputy governor ticket of Justice and Prosperity Party member Ahmad Heryawan and former actor and House of Representatives member Dede Yusuf – known as Hade – who do not have an established political bureaucratic track record like the other candidates, were able, surprisingly, to obtain a vote well in excess of incumbent Danny Setiawan (the current West Java governor) and Iwan Sulandjana (former commander of the Siliwangi Regional Military Command), and Agum Gumelar (former transport minister and retired army general) and Nu’man Abdul Hakim (the current West Java deputy governor).

There are many things that may have contributed to success of the Heryawan-Yusuf ticket in garnering the largest number of votes. The youth ticket (both were born in 1966) appears to have successfully stolen the vote of the youth constituency.

This was apparent from the majority of respondents (49.5 percent) in the 17-30 age group who gave their vote to Heryawan and Yusuf. Voters in the younger age groups have a great deal of potential to influence the vote in West Java. Population data from a 2005 Central Statistics Agency survey found that out of a total population of 27 million over the age of 15, 50.2 percent of the population of West Java is in the 15-34 year age group.

The public’s choice

The visions and missions taken up by candidates in the campaign did not offer much that was new. Throughout the campaign, the three pairs of candidates made standard and relatively uniform promises, similar to those taken up in other regional elections. Among these were promises to improve the economic situation, infrastructure, development, the bureaucracy and the eradication of corruption and eliminating poverty. These issues were offered uniformly by the three candidate tickets for governor and deputy governor of West Java.

The public it seems did hope that the number one seat in the province over the next period would be able to make improvement to these sectors. The public however, also appeared to be nervous about whether the candidates would be able to overcome the problems that have been plaguing West Java up until now.

On the issue of the eradication of corruption for example, 58.7 percent of respondents doubted the capacity of the future provincial heads to implement their promises. Likewise also on the question of eradicating poverty, with voter’s unease clearly apparent from the split in public confidence. As many as 49.5 percent of respondents said that they doubted that the future governor and deputy governor would be able to overcome the problem of poverty. The other 50.5 percent of respondents said they were optimistic.

Not having logged many flying hours in the bureaucracy and political arena can be of benefit to candidates, particularly if they are completing against incumbents whose performance can be measured in the public. The Heryawan-Yusuf ticket for example, appears to have garnered the most votes from members of the public who had placed their hopes in someone with a high level of moral integrity. In the case of these candidates, the public did not look closely at their track record in bureaucracy and politics.

There were hopes that Ahmad Heryawan, who before entering the political area had an academic background and Dede Yusuf who is a well known celebrity, would bring a breath of fresh air in taking the helm of the future West Java government.

Respondents who voted for the pair mostly determined their choice based on the belief that they had the highest integrity in terms of concern for the people’s future. As many as 29.1 percent of respondents said they voted for the pair for this reason. As it happens, 29.2 percent of respondents who voted for them said that the leadership values of the pair were behind their choice.

Indeed, the public did not look closely at the pair’s performance in the political and bureaucratic arena. This was different from the other candidates, who do in fact have long flying hours and whose performance could be measured by public in terms of development in the province.

For the other candidate tickets, voters mostly based their choice on whether the candidates had good leadership qualities. For those who voted for Gumelar-Abdul Hakim ticket, the majority of respondents (28 percent) based their choice on the leadership experience of the candidates. In the case of the Setiawan-Sulandjana ticket, the leadership experience factor was only of interest to 26.3 percent of respondents. (Litbang Kompas)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the report was “Survey – Critical choices made in the final week”.]