Abdul Khalik , The Jakarta Post ,

A new survey suggests former president Megawati Soekarnoputri would win an election if it were held today, thanks to the government’s decision to raise fuel prices.

The survey, conducted by Indo Barometer 10 days after the fuel prices went up, found 30.4 percent of respondents would vote for Megawati for president compared to only 20.7 percent for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The survey — conducted among 1,200 respondents in 33 provinces — indicated a sharp decline in Yudhoyono’s popularity.

A similar survey in May last year showed Yudhoyono still far ahead of Megawati, with 35.3 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him as opposed to 22.6 for the former president. A survey last December showed Yudhoyono still ahead, at 38.1 percent to Megawati’s 27.4 percent.

“Yudhoyono’s decision to increase fuel prices and his administration’s failure to get people to accept the decision are factors behind his plunging popularity,” Indo Barometer executive director M. Qodari told reporters during the survey presentation here Sunday.

The survey said only 8.1 percent of respondents agreed with the government’s fuel price policy while more than 80 percent opposed it.

Most respondents rejected the government’s arguments — preventing smuggling, global price increases, reducing subsidies or helping poor people — to justify the increase.

Yudhoyono’s poll loss to Megawati was in line with the low approval many expressed for his performance as president. Some 60.5 percent of respondents said they were not satisfied with his performance in general, with only 36.5 percent saying they were satisfied and 3.2 percent declining to answer.

Respondents expressed highest dissatisfaction for Yudhoyono’s handling of the economy, with 79.1 percent saying they were disappointed in his inability to solve economic problems.

Overall, the survey said 50.1 percent opposed his reelection while 31.3 percent supported it and 18.1 percent were undecided.

Economist Faisal Basri said the results could be much worse for Yudhoyono now that people had already felt the full impacts of fuel price increases.

“A month or two after the fuel price hike, people will feel the second round impacts of the raised prices, especially in increased goods and transportation costs,” he said.

Faisal, however, said the results did not necessarily guarantee Megawati the presidency, since her approval rating was still just over 30 percent.

Fentiny Nugroho of the University of Indonesia said Yudhoyono could rebound if he enhanced his pro-poor policies in the health and education sectors while trying to create jobs for people.

Aside from Megawati’s rising popularity, former TNI chief Gen. (ret.) Wiranto and Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengku Buwono X also received support with 9.3 percent and 8.8 percent of respondents respectively.

Sri Sultan was also the most electable vice presidential candidate with support from 19.9 percent of respondents, with Vice President Jusuf Kalla coming in a distant second at 12.3 percent.