Mexico lower house OKs political reform, paves way for energy bill

MEXICO CITY Thu May 15, 2014 6:00pm EDT

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MEXICO CITY May 15 (Reuters) - Mexico's lower house of Congress gave general approval to a political reform bill on Thursday that will help clear the way for the passage of legislation needed to implement a major energy reform.

Setting out details of a law to allow lawmakers to serve consecutive terms and establish rules for coalition governments, the so-called secondary laws for the electoral reform were approved by a vote of 381 in favor and 62 against.

The lower house must still vote on proposed amendments to the legislation, which passed the Senate on Wednesday. Final approval for the bill is expected later on Thursday before it can go to President Enrique Pena Nieto to be signed into law.

Mexico's opposition conservative National Action Party (PAN) had demanded passage of the political reform before it would vote for Pena Nieto's energy reform, which forms the central plank of his vision to breathe new life into the economy.

Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is relying on PAN support to see through the energy reform, which ends a 75-year-old oil and gas monopoly in Mexico.

The PRI lacks an outright majority in Congress.

Congress passed the basic legislation last year to open up the oil and gas industry and spur competition in a telecoms sector dominated by tycoon Carlos Slim. But it must still approve the secondary laws to implement those changes.

Congressional leaders aim to convene special sessions to debate and pass the pending energy and telecoms bills in the second half of June. Some officials worry it may take longer.

The electoral bill completes a constitutional reform that enables the re-election of mayors and congressmen, places new restrictions on campaign financing, and creates a new national body responsible for organizing federal and local polls. (Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Dave Graham)

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