Lawmakers in Russia’s Kremlin-controlled parliament on Friday gave tentative approval to a bill that would move up next year’s parliamentary election by three months, a tactic seen by critics as an attempt to weaken the opposition. The lower house voted 339-101 with one abstention Friday to approve the bill in the first of three readings. It would also need to be approved by the equally-docile upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin.
The bill envisages moving the 2016 parliamentary election from December to September. It would likely result in a lower public interest in the campaign, as many Russians go on vacation in the summer, paying less attention to politics.
Some observers saw the parliament move as a trial balloon for possible early presidential vote, a move that would allow Putin to win another term before his popularity sinks amid Russia’s economic woes.