Mexican lower house agrees to extend term of Supreme Court chief

MEXICO CITY, April 23 (Reuters) - Mexico's lower house of Congress on Friday voted to extend the term of the president of the Supreme Court for an extra two years, a step that critics have attacked as an unconstitutional power grab by the ruling party.

In the early hours, the lower house approved in general terms a package of judicial reforms that included the extension of Supreme Court President Arturo Zaldivar's term until the end of November 2024 by a vote of 260 in favor and 167 against.

Zaldivar was originally appointed to serve a four-year term that concludes at the end of 2022.

Lawmakers have begun working through reservations to the legislation, the lower house said in a statement.

The judicial overhaul passed the Senate last week. Both houses are controlled by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its allies.

Lopez Obrador last week set aside concerns about the contentious term extension, which he explained had been put forward in the Senate. He said he was in favor of the measure if it helped pass the judicial reform.

Zaldivar was appointed to lead the court under Lopez Obrador, and is widely regarded as an ally of the president. Still, the Federal Judiciary Council that Zaldivar heads last week sought to distance itself from the proposal to extend his term.

Critics regard Zaldivar's job extension as a potential test case for prolonging the mandates of other public servants enshrined in the constitution, including presidential terms. Presidential terms are set at six years.

Lopez Obrador has repeatedly said he has no intention of seeking to extend his term, which concludes in late 2024.

(Writing by Dave Graham Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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