Putin Signs Law on Early Parliamentary Elections Amid Recession

Russian President Vladimir Putin set the date for early parliamentary elections in September next year as his country slides into its first recession since 2009.

Putin signed a law moving the State Duma vote from Dec. 4 to Sept. 18, 2016 after the two houses of parliament approved the change earlier this month. The move is intended to help pro-Putin parties against Kremlin opponents because it would be preceded by a low-key campaign over the summer, when much of Russia’s population is on vacation, according to opposition activists.

The Kremlin said last month that experts will also study an idea floated by former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin, a Putin ally, of calling early presidential elections, a move that could give the Russian leader a fresh term while opinion polls show his public-approval rating at a record high of almost 90 percent.

Putin, 62, who can stand for re-election for another six-year term in 2018, is facing a worsening economic climate likely to be exacerbated by Tuesday’s historic deal to lift international sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Russia’s economy is reeling from the impact of an almost 50 percent drop in oil prices since June 2014 to around $58 a barrel, as well as the effects of U.S. and European Union sanctions over the Ukrainian conflict. Oil could tumble another $15 a barrel once sanctions on Iran are lifted, the Energy Information Administration said in April.