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Mexico president backs extension of supreme court head’s term, sparks backlash

Mexico president backs extension of supreme court head’s term, sparks backlash
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador addresses to the nation on his second anniversary as the President of Mexico, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, December 1, 2020. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has tested positive for COVID-19, he said on Sunday, adding that his symptoms were light and that he was receiving medical treatment. Photo taken December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Mexico’s Senate on Thursday voted to extend the term of the president of the Supreme Court for an extra two years, a move criticized by opposition lawmakers who called it a bid by the ruling party to strengthen its hold on the country’s institutions.

Arturo Zaldivar, who has been publicly supportive of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was appointed in January 2019 with a term slated to end on Dec. 31, 2022.

If the modification to extend his term passes in the lower house of Congress, he would hold his position until Nov. 30, 2024.

Lawmakers approved the proposal by a wide majority, the Senate said in a statement.

Both houses of Congress are controlled by the ruling party MORENA and its allies.

The Federal Judiciary Board, whose president is Zaldivar, said it was not involved with the term extension proposal, which was added to several initiatives related to judicial law that were also voted upon on Thursday.

“Not only was it not developed by the writing team of the original proposals, but it also was not requested by the Federal Judiciary,” the board said in a statement.

It added that it would await the outcome of the lower house vote before commenting further. Zaldivar did not publicly comment.

Senator Damian Zepeda of the National Action Party (PAN) opposed the attempt to extend Zaldivar’s term, and warned that it could open the door to further bids to lengthen term limits, including for the Mexican presidency.

“MORENA is trying to seize power through illegality,” Zepeda said on Twitter.

The Supreme Court in May unanimously struck down a 2019 law that had extended the mandate of the governor of Baja California, a MORENA member, with Zaldivar commenting that extending the term would have been tantamount to “post-electoral fraud.”

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