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Russian parliament approves direct elections of governors

(Xinhua)

09:23, April 26, 2012

MOSCOW, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Russia's State Duma, or the lower house of parliament, on Wednesday approved in the final and the third reading a bill re-introducing the direct elections of governors.

According to the bill, every Russian citizen aged over 30 could run for a governor either from a party or independently.

To be registered as a candidate, one must receive support of 5- 10 percent of municipal lawmakers in at least three-fourths of municipalities in a region, which Russian political analysts called the "municipal filters" or "municipal primaries".

The law also envisages that one can stay in office for only two consecutive terms, and leaves the governor's electoral threshold for regional parliaments to establish.

The bill needs to be approved by the Federal Council, or the upper house, and be signed by the president to become a law. The process is expected to be completed by June 1, 2012.

The first elections under the new law will take place on Oct. 14 in three regions. All the other Russian regions will vote for their heads in 2013.

Direct election of governors was canceled in 2004 by the then President Vladimir Putin, who saw it as encouraging local separatism sentiments.

After last December's parliamentary elections, mass rallies were held in Russian cities in protest of alleged vote fraud. Return to the governors' direct elections was one of the protesters' demands.

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