Tuesday, 31 July, 2012 | 14:58 WIB
By the Power of the Election Survey
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:SEVEN years following the establishment of Lingkar Survei Indonesia, or the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), Denny Januar Aly has never been bothered again with material affairs. Now LSI has five subsidiary firms that handle everything linked to the success of the general elections – may it be advertising needs, political consultations, thorough research work, or preparing to hold election surveys.
Denny considers LSI as the “supermarket” for general elections, admitting that he accepts and caters to all orders dealing with political consultation services: studying and correctly mapping out political connections and whom a client can depend on for political support, the building of a political image, strategies to win an election, mobilizing opinions on a massive scale and arranging for post-election quick counts.
Denny refused to spell out how much LSI had churned this year. His office however on Jalan Pemuda in East Jakarta is equipped with a billiard table and a cafe. Each year, he said, he sends of his 80 employees, including drivers and messenger boys and girls, for overseas holidays. "This year, they go to Hong Kong," he said last Tuesday.
LSI's operational affairs are tackled by directors and employees who, according to Denny, own 30 percent of the company shares. "The rest of the time I compose poetry and travel," said the 49-year-old.
Survey institutions and political consultancies have come under intense public spotlight after the first round of the Jakarta gubernatorial elections this year - it resulted in a different outcome than the one predicted by every survey institution in town.
Every polling survey institution and political consultancy had bet their money on the ticket of incumbent governor Fauzi Bowo-Nachrowi Ramli winning during the July 11 elections. What happened instead was that the ticket of Joko Widodo-Basuki Tjahaya Purnama won the most number of votes.
Denny claims that the polling survey business and political consultancies in Jakarta would never undergo losses, because consulting fees are always paid up front. “This is a very liquid business,” Denny said. To give an example, he said, he had invested Rp 550 million to establish LSI. He earned back that amount through a single polling survey conducted for Ismeth Abdullah, who had nominated himself for the post of Riau Governor in 2005.
Ever since then, Denny claims that the LSI has been overwhelmed with orders coming in from candidates wanting to run for regional elections. Direct elections for the Indonesian president, the governor, mayor and regent since 2004 have been a boon for his firm. “It is a given that any gubernatorial candidate or a candidate running for regent will require a popularity survey to gauge his or her electability factor,” Denny said.
Today, there are 497 regencies and municipalities, plus 33 provinces. Each year, 100 regions hold direct elections. If each region had an average of three candidates, there are 300 clients who need political consultancy services. In a year, each candidate holds two or three surveys. Each survey costs between Rp100 million to Rp 300 million, depending on their geographical location. The more remote it is, or the more populated the region is, the more fees it will cost.
According to the executive director of Cirus Surveyors Group, Andrinof A. Chaniago, the bulk of the operational costs go to interviews with respondents. Four hundred respondents, for instance, call for 20 interviewers who should be trained and given accommodation expenses, plus fees of some Rp 50,000 per questionnaire. The entire survey expenditure still generally sets aside a 20 to 30 percent profit.
Throughout 2005-2011, LSI served 21 gubernatorial candidates and 50 mayoralty/regent candidates. At least, this is the figure advertised in mass media, since their clients have won previous elections. The failed candidates are never publicized. Denny disclosed that even though candidates lose in the race, the consultants would still receive consulting fees. The losing clients, he said, do not normally throw a fuss over mistaken predictions of the survey organizations they hire.
Bagja Hidayat, Anggrita Desyani (Jakarta), Irmawati, Sulfaedar Pay (Makassar)