Russian lower house backs bill to allow Putin to pick candidates to lead regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives at the town of Krymsk in the Krasnodar regionMOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia's parliament has given preliminary backing to a bill that would enable the country's 83 regions to scrap popular elections of their leaders in favor of a system that would let President Vladimir Putin choose candidates instead. Opponents said the bill, approved in a 403-10 vote late on Wednesday after the first of three readings in the lower house would be a step backwards for democracy in Putin's new term. The lower house is dominated by Putin's United Russia party. …

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