Mexico's top court freezes electoral reform ahead of lawsuit

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Supreme Court building where Ministers elected a new President for the Supreme Court, in Mexico City, Mexico January 2, 2023.REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Supreme Court temporarily suspended on Friday parts of a controversial electoral reform pushed by the country's president, while also confirming it will consider a lawsuit from independent electoral institute INE that seeks to overturn it.

The congressional electoral reform passed by allies of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador last month was a scaled-down version of a failed constitutional reform he originally sought, but it still managed to slash the institute's budget and headcount ahead of presidential elections next year.

The court stressed in a statement that it has frozen the articles of the reform challenged by INE.

"The case before us involves the possible violation of citizen's political-electoral rights," according to the court statement, which noted the lawsuit also involves constitutional questions that must be settled.

Late last month, Mexico's Senate gave its final approval to the electoral reform known locally as "Plan B," which critics warn will undermine democracy since it significantly downsizes the INE while giving more power to local officials, many of whom are members of Lopez Obrador's MORENA party.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets days after lawmakers approved the reform, in one of the largest protests so far against Lopez Obrador's four-year-old administration.

In his two past unsuccessful runs for the presidency, in 2006 and 2012, Lopez Obrador bitterly clashed with electoral authorities, and in both cases claimed he was the actual winner.

The leftist leader who has also pushed budget austerity polices during his time in office has argued that the electoral reform will save $150 million a year while reducing the influence of economic interests in politics.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Michael Perry)

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