March 18, 2018 / 9:21 PM / a year ago

Mexico's ruling-party candidate wants law to end political immunity

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican presidential candidate Jose Antonio Meade urged lawmakers on Sunday from the ruling party-led coalition he leads to offer a bill before the election to remove political immunity at all levels of government, including for the president.

Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Jose Antonio Meade holds hands with his wife Juana Cuevas after registering as presidential candidate at the National Electoral Institute (INE) in Mexico City, Mexico March 18, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Speaking after formally registering his candidacy for the July 1 election, which has been dominated by voters’ frustration with endemic corruption and growing violence, Meade said he was committed to making Mexico a more fair and just country.

“With these themes that are so relevant, we shouldn’t wait until after the election,” he said. “That’s why ... I am asking lawmakers of our coalition to present a proposal to eliminate political immunity at all levels. Nobody should be immune.”

Meade, who is running a distant third in most opinion polls, has struggled to overcome the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) graft-stained reputation. Meade’s technocratic message of political propriety has not resonated with voters.

Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has a strong lead in most polls, reiterated earlier this month that if he won the election, he would seek to change the constitution to allow sitting presidents to be tried for corruption.

The Mexican Constitution only allows sitting presidents to be prosecuted for treachery against the country and vaguely defined “crimes of the common order.”

Meade has been seeking to burnish his corruption-fighting credentials, and his message is likely to concern some in his party and the current administration.

Meade told Reuters in an interview earlier this month that Mexico’s attorney general should be given more autonomy to fight corruption so that no one, not even the president, is above the law.

Mexico’s attorney general’s office has been criticized by opposition politicians and justice reform advocates for moving slowly on cases involving the ruling party.

Meade said he wanted to loosen the government’s grip on the public prosecutor so that it was not beholden to changing political tides.

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration has been hit by conflict-of-interest scandals and the PRI has been battered by corruption allegations against several of its governors.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Peter Cooney

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