Indonesian pollsters face threats as quick-counts stoke division

Several Indonesian pollsters were on the receiving end of threats and intimidation on Friday allegedly due to their opposing findings regarding the outcome of the recent presidential election.

Pol-Tracking Institute public relations and programme manager Agung Baskoro said the pollster's headquarters in Setiabudi, South Jakarta, began receiving suspicious phone calls early on Friday.

"The phone in our office kept ringing starting at 1 a.m. Friday morning. No one, however, picked up, since it is very unusual for us to receive a phone call that early," Agung told The Jakarta Post.

"Our office guards also reported two strangers standing in front of our office. That was very unusual."

The Setiabudi police, according to Agung, warned Pol-Tracking later in the day about a potential attack on its office.

"But we decided to work normally," he said, adding that several Setiabudi police officers had been deployed to help keep the office secure.

Pol-Tracking Institute is among several established pollsters that on Wednesday, according to the results of its quick-counts, announced the victory of Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician and non-active Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the July 9 presidential elections.

Other pollsters crowing Jokowi the winner included Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC), Indikator Politik Indonesia, the Indonesian Circle Survey (LSI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies - Cyrus Network.

Indikator Politik Indonesia executive director Burhanuddin Muhtadi told that the Jakarta Police had deployed on Friday a dozen officers to guard its headquarters in Menteng, Central Jakarta, even though the pollster had yet to receive any threats.

"We appreciate this [police initiative]," Burhanuddin said.

A separate threat was directed at the Indonesia Votes Network (JSI), whose quick-count results suggested the victory of the Gerindra Party chief patron and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi's only rival.

According to Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto, an unidentified person threw a Molotov cocktail at the JSI office on Jl. Warung Jati, South Jakarta, at 1 a.m. on Friday. The cocktail, however, failed to explode.

"The bottle contains gasoline connected to a wick. However, the wick failed to burn," he told reporters.

Rikwanto said that IZ, a 75-year-old security officer who was patrolling the office during night shift, heard the sound of a glass bottle rolling on concrete floor. Upon hearing the sound, he searched the basement and found the unexploded bomb. He then immediately called the police.

"Currently, we are searching for the perpetrators," Rikwanto said, adding that the police had so far identified no witnesses in the case.

Both Jokowi and Prabowo have claimed victory in the presidential election, anchoring their cases to quick-count data gathered by different pollsters. While the Jokowi's camp quoted pollsters with established track records of credibility, the Prabowo camp cited data from questionable polling agencies, including the JSI, the National Survey Institute (LSN) and Puskaptis, which relied on dubious quick-count methodology.

The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) called on all broadcasters on Friday to stop viewing quick-count results from all pollsters and victory claims from both camps since they had ignited conflicts in public.

"[The results] have built many public perceptions toward the election. Early victory claims can be taken as provocations or public lies," said KPI chairman Judhariksawan.

KPI will recommend license withdrawal to the Communication and Information Ministry for any broadcaster that still insists on publishing the sensitive materials, he said.

To prevent attacks targeting pollsters, the Jakarta Police has instructed officers on the sub-district level to conduct regular patrols around the pollsters' offices.

"They have exchanged phone numbers, so the security officers can easily make contact if any incident occurs. If the pollsters need police officers guarding their offices, we can fulfil that request," he added.