Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] approved a law on Tuesday giving him the authority to select candidates for regional elections. Under the new law, Putin will have the ability to submit three candidates [Bloomberg News report] to legislature for approval for any of the country's 83 regions. This structure can be used to circumvent direct elections. While Putin and the legislature maintain that the law is necessary to prevent unrest and protect the rights of minorities, the law has been criticized as a setback for democracy [Reuters report] and a method of promoting Putin's United Russia Party. Putin abolished popular election of governors in 2004, but that rule was reversed last year amid widespread protests [BBC report] in Russia.
The new election law is merely the latest in a string of controversial laws enacted in Russia recently. In January, it was announced that Russia would delay enforcement of a controversial law that would prohibit adoption [JURIST reports] to the US. Also in January, Putin signed [JURIST report] new education legislation which, among other things, requires courses that teach the fundamentals of religion. In November, a law which gives Russian authorities significant latitude to regulate the internet took effect [JURIST report]. In July of last year, Putin signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that labels all non-governmental organizations that engage in political activities as "foreign agents" and requires them to register with the Justice Ministry before receiving any foreign funding. That same month, Russian politicians asked [JURIST report] the country's constitutional court to review a law that increases penalties against protestors who violate regulations.