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Mexico Senate approves major political reforms

– Mexico’s Senate has passed the most dramatic political reform attempt in decades that would allow re-election of federal legislators, create new election oversight and make the Attorney General’s office independent from the executive.

The Senate approved the overall reform late Tuesday, but continued to debate certain details early Wednesday. The reform measure still has to be approved by the lower House.

With Tuesday’s vote, the Senate will move on to energy reform and attempts to open Mexico’s moribund, state-run oil industry to greater private investment – considered the most critical part of the reform package that President Enrique Pena Nieto is pushing to have passed before the end of this year.

The political reform would still limit presidents to a single, six-year term, but it would relax Mexico’s ironclad ban on the re-election of other officials by allowing them to run for re-election and remain in office for up to 12 years. It also would allow independent candidates to run for public offices.

Allowing re-election of lawmakers and mayors would give party bosses less control over politicians’ futures. Letting independent candidates run would erode the parties’ control over elections, according to supporters. Under the Senate’s proposal, re-elections would be allowed starting in 2018.

The bill also authorizes Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, which will change its name to the National Electoral Institute, to name the president and members of each of the 32 states’ electoral institutes. State congresses currently name them.

Most of Mexico’s 32 states are ruled by members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and opposition leaders say governors have a lot of influence on local congresses, and therefore the electoral authorities.

Senators also approved giving autonomy to the Attorney General’s office and requiring that the Senate approve the candidate to top prosecutor proposed by the president.

The plan also proposes allowing ng small parties that get at least 3 percent of the vote to qualify for lucrative public funding, up from the current 2 percent.

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