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Putin Approves Law Allowing Regions to Abolish Direct Elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a measure that allows governors to be appointed in the country’s 83 regions, reversing last year’s move to restore direct elections.

The bill approved by Putin was passed last month by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, and the Federation Council, the upper house, the Kremlin said on its website today. Under the measure, the president will have the right to submit three candidates for approval by the legislature of any province.

Putin abolished direct elections for governors in 2004 as president. Dmitry Medvedev, who served as head of state from 2008 to 2012 after Putin completed the maximum two consecutive terms allowed by the constitution, restored the gubernatorial vote after mass protests over alleged election fraud. Putin, 60, returned to the Kremlin last May after edging aside Medvedev, 47, who now serves as prime minister.

A top official from the ruling United Russia party, Adalbi Shkhagoshev, said this year that the law would allow the mainly Muslim North Caucasus to opt out from direct votes, according to comments published on the party’s website. The impoverished region is plagued by violence blamed on Islamic extremists.

Critics of the law say it will be used to end elections of all governors. Russia’s first gubernatorial elections in eight years were held in October.

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