The lower house of Russia's parliament has passed in its final reading a bill intended to make the registration of new political parties easier.
The bill, which was submitted by outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev, has been seen as a concession following massive public protests against the December 2011 Duma elections, which were widely viewed as falsified.
Under the new bill, which still must pass the upper chamber and be signed by Medvedev before becoming law, parties will need just 500 members, instead of 40,000, to be registered.
Opposition parties have criticized the bill because it does not allow small parties to contest elections as blocs.
Since parties must gain at least 5 percent of the vote to gain seats in parliament, critics feel small parties will continue to be excluded.
Based on ITAR-TASS and AFP reports