Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Mexican Congress moves to revamp campaign laws

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MEXICO CITY

A year after a closely contested presidential election divided the country, the Mexican Congress is moving to revamp electoral laws to rein in negative campaigns and to keep businesses and individuals from influencing elections.

The proposed changes to the electoral laws and charges by some groups that they would lead to a return to the old authoritarian style of government demonstrate that the deep wounds from last year's race have yet to heal.

A year ago, Mexican President Felipe Calderon eked out a victory after running a negative campaign that implied that his opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was a leftist autocrat at heart. Big business also spent lavishly on attack advertisements to stop Lopez Obrador from coming to power.

"The spine of the reform is to push the power of money out of the electoral struggle in Mexico," said Senator Carlos Navarrete of Lopez Obrador's left-wing Democratic Revolution Party.

Late on Wednesday night, the Senate approved a series of constitutional changes that would radically change how Mexico conducts elections. If they become law, the bills would change the structure of the autonomous Federal Electoral Institute, effectively ousting its president, whom many leftists accuse of giving the election to Calderon by refusing to do a complete recount.

Under the proposed measures, all political advertisements would be placed through the electoral institute. The institute would distribute free air time that television and radio stations would be required to reserve for public service announcements among the main parties, saving them millions of dollars.

The electoral institute could bar any spot that denigrates a candidate or party and order broadcasters to stop carrying it.

The package of bills now goes to the lower chamber, Mexico's House of Deputies.

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