Suharto rejects call to limit presidential term

He is against changing charter that has served country well.

PRESIDENT Suharto has indirectly rejected calls for a presidential term limit after he leaves office, saying that Indonesia should continue to abide by the Constitution and its provisions regarding the President’s tenure.

In his first public comment on the issue since a Cabinet minister proposed the idea, he was quoted as saying that the 1945 Constitution was already clear in its explanation of the length of the presidential term of office.

“We should always stick to the Constitution as a guideline to sustain our political system,” Youth and Sports Minister Hayono Isman quoted Mr Suharto as saying after a meeting here on Thursday.

The Constitution stipulates that a president is elected for a five-year term and can be re-elected. It does not specify any term limits.

The President, who has previously rejected similar proposals for term limits, believes that the Constitution should not be tinkered with as it has served Indonesia well thus far.

When the nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party campaigned previously for a fixed presidential term, he entered the fray and argued that there was already a “limit” – namely, that a president was elected to serve a five-year term, but he would be eligible for re-election.

Such a mechanism ensured that the country enjoyed stable national leadership for at least a five-year period, he said, adding that any imposition of a limit would be a “deviation” from the Constitution.

Transmigration Minister Siswono Yudohusodo suggested on Wednesday that a president’s term tenure be limited to 10 years – a maximum of two terms – after the 76-year-old Mr Suharto, leaves office.

Mr Siswono said that a public consensus on the presidential term limit was necessary. But he stopped short of calling for a revision of the Constitution.

The leading Indonesian-language daily, Kompas, yesterday also quoted Mr Siswono as saying he believed that Mr Suharto would be backed by all the country’s social and political groupings to run for another term as president.

Despite President Suharto rejection, albeit indirectly, of a term limit, Mr Siswono has been supported on the point that any change must be achieved by consensus.

Both State Secretary Moerdiono and the chief of the armed forces faction in Parliament, Mr Suparman Achmad, pointed out that any change must be determined by the People’s Consultative Assembly – the country’s highest legislative body.

The Assembly, made up of Parliament’s 500 MPs and another 500 representatives appointed by Mr Suharto, meets once every five years to draw up policy guidelines for government and to elect a president and a vice-president.

“We have a mechanism in place. So just entrust it to this mechanism,” Mr Moerdiono said.

There has been growing support from key political players for Mr Suharto to be nominated for a record seventh five-year term as president in March next year.

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