Lawmakers in the lower house of the Russian parliament have given initial approval to a package of Kremlin-proposed bills aimed at liberalizing the nation's political system in the wake of massive street protests.
The bills would reinstate the direct election of provincial governors and ease stringent requirements for the registration of political parties and their participation in elections.
The State Duma approved the bills in the first of three required readings.
The opposition has said the move is an attempt to assuage public anger following parliamentary elections in December that critics alleged were falsified and to help Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reclaim the presidency.
Putin scrapped the direct election of provincial governors and introduced tough laws on political parties during his two terms as president between 2000 and 2008.
Many political opponents downplayed the planned measures after President Dmitry Medvedev announced them
in his state-of-the-nation address in December.
Based on AFP and Interfax reporting