Medvedev Submits Reform Bill after Protests

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday submitted a bill to parliament that would reinstate the direct election of regional governors following mass protests calling for reform.

Under the bill, Russian citizens would elect their regional leaders running independently or on a party ticket for a term of five years, the Kremlin said in a statement.

In the current system, the Kremlin chooses new governors from a shortlist presented by the ruling party. The appointment is then rubber-stamped by the local parliament.

The bill proposes instead that registered parties consult with the president on their candidates before their formal nomination -- something that the opposition has criticized for allowing the Kremlin to filter out unwelcome candidates.

"The parties will be able to nominate their candidates after consultations with the Russian president, the rules of which will be determined by the president," said the statement.

Russia abolished direct gubernatorial elections in 2004 during Vladimir Putin's presidency, in a move that was strongly criticized by the opposition. The posts have been filled by presidential appointment ever since.

Russia was rocked by record protests after disputed parliamentary elections on December 4.

The next mass rally is scheduled for February 4, a month before the presidential polls where Putin is seeking a historic third Kremlin term.

Source: Agence France Presse

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