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Mexican Supreme Court throws out law extending governor's mandate

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s Supreme Court on Monday unanimously struck down a law extending the gubernatorial mandate of a member of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s ruling party which had fed concerns it could lead to broader changes to term limits.

FILE PHOTO: Baja California governor-elect Jaime Bonilla speaks during a news conference in Mexico City, Mexico, Mexico October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Luis Cortes/File Photo

The 2019 state law permitted Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla to lengthen his term in office to five years from the original two years. But all 11 members of the Supreme Court ruled in a live online broadcast that the legislation was unconstitutional.

Governors are generally elected for a single six-year stint, but in the previous government, authorities agreed to reduce the terms of some upcoming mandates, including that of Baja California, in order to synchronize electoral calendars.

Under those changes, the current governor of the state that borders California was scheduled to serve only two years.

Still, after easily winning election in June 2019 and before he took office in November, Bonilla pushed through a law in the state congress allowing him to stay power until 2024, when the next presidential election is due to be held.

Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldivar, who has been publicly supportive of Lopez Obrador, said voters had elected Bonilla on the understanding he would serve a two-year term and that the state congress had no right to extend his period.

“Exercising the mandate awarded is subject to a pre-established period of time which cannot be modified after the fact,” Zaldivar said. To change the terms as Bonilla had was tantamount to committing “post-electoral fraud,” he added.

Bonilla belongs to Lopez Obrador’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). However, frictions have recently arisen between Bonilla and the federal government over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico.

Opponents of Lopez Obrador had argued that lengthening Bonilla’s mandate could set a precedent that could ultimately pave the way for presidential re-election.

Re-electing the president has been widely regarded as taboo in Mexico since the three-decade dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, which ended with the Mexican Revolution in 1910.

Presidents are elected to serve one six-year term, and Lopez Obrador has repeatedly said he will not seek to extend his time in office. He does, however, aim to hold a so-called recall vote on his presidency by the spring of 2022 at the latest.

Reporting by Dave Graham in Mexico City; Editing by Matthew Lewis

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