Jakarta. Media magnate and top politician Surya Paloh said he was open to the possibility of amending the 1945 Constitution so that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo can be elected for a third time.
The constitution, which now limits the presidential term to two periods, has been amended several times after long-serving President Soeharto's resignation in 1998. The key amendments include the introduction of a direct presidential election and the two-period presidential term limit.
However, the chairman of the National Democratic Party (NasDem), told BeritaSatu TV's Claudius Boekan that the presidential term limit was not a rigid article in the Constitution and could be amended.
"To be honest, if all political parties agree with [the amendment], then why should I disagree?" Surya said in the interview, aired on Friday night.
"Everything can be re-evaluated depending on changes and needs of the present situation. The 1945 Constitution has gone through four amendments [already], there should be nothing wrong with another one or two," Surya said.
Article 7 of the original 1945 Constitution stipulates that a president can be re-elected after serving a five-year term without providing a specific limit. The amendment says a president can only be elected for two periods.
Surya said he would also accept the idea of returning the presidential election to a vote in the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), just as it had been done during Soeharto's 32-year rule.
"The people who will disagree most [with this idea] are the polling companies since a presidential election by the MPR will not need any survey [of the candidates]," the Metro TV owner said.
Surya, who on Monday was re-elected party chairman by acclamation, said any plan for an amendment should get approval from the public.
"We have until the next three years to get responses from the public. If they accept the idea, then I will not oppose it," he said.
But if the majority of the people rejected the amendment, Surya said he would come to terms with that as well.
"My stance is moderate on this issue," he told Claudius.
Surya spoke highly of Jokowi during the interview, so much so that he said the president's re-election in April was more important than NasDem's performance in the legislative election.
"Jokowi's leadership is more important than our own interests. It would not have meant anything for us if we had doubled our seats in the DPR [House of Representatives] but Jokowi could not re-elected," Surya said.
He praised Jokowi as a "humble leader" who has barely changed after rising through the ranks from being the mayor of Solo, Central Java, to governor of Jakarta and then to the presidency.
During the interview, Surya recounted an intimate moment with Jokowi when both men met during the closing ceremony of NasDem's national congress in Jakarta on Monday.
After he delivered a speech on stage, Jokowi said he wanted Surya to hug him, just like when the NasDem chairman hugged Sohibul Iman, the chairman of opposition party the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), in an earlier encounter that had caused a media sensation.
Surya responded to the request by embracing Jokowi as the president was leaving the stage.
Surya, 68, said he had no ambition to become a president himself.
"Maybe 20 years ago I did [want to become president]. But now I know my moment is over, my muscles aren't as strong as they used to be," he said.
"And I realize there are many other people more capable than me, and meanwhile I'm not getting any younger," Surya said.
He also said he did not think any of the current NasDem executives had the potential to become a presidential candidate.
Surya founded NasDem in July 2011 and the party managed to win 36 House seats in its election debut in 2014. It did even better in April's election, winning 59 seats. He has been the chairman of NasDem since January 2013.