MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Mexican Supreme Court on Tuesday declared unconstitutional a bid by the country’s ruling party to extend the period in office of the tribunal’s chief justice, which President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had supported.
A decision by Congress in April to prolong by two years the term of Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldivar sparked consternation among critics of the government, who saw it as a potential test run for extending Lopez Obrador’s mandate beyond 2024.
Lopez Obrador denied that, but Zaldivar said later he did not intend to extend his time in office until Nov. 30, 2024. Lopez Obrador had argued that extending Zaldivar’s term as head of Mexico’s highest court was necessary so that he could oversee a package of reforms of the judiciary.
Opposition lawmakers still challenged the extension, and the Supreme Court said in a statement that its justices voted unanimously to strike down the term amendment approved by Congress, which was included within the judicial reforms.
Separately, Olga Sanchez, head of the Senate and a former justice on the court, said Lopez Obrador had submitted three nominees to fill a vacancy on the tribunal next month, when the term of Justice Jose Fernando Franco concludes.
They were Bernardo Batiz, who was attorney general of Mexico City under Lopez Obrador, Eva Veronica de Gyves, a jurist regarded by analysts as close to the government, and Loretta Ortiz, a onetime lawmaker and political ally of the president.
All three currently sit on Mexico’s federal judiciary council, over which Zaldivar presides. The Senate must decide on the incoming justice.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Richard Chang and Peter Cooney)