MOSCOW -- Russia's Constitutional Court has upheld the legality of early parliamentary elections, clearing the way for lawmakers to vote on bringing forward next year's State Duma elections by three months.
The court said the initiative was constitutional so long as election dates were not regularly shifted.
The effort to bring forward the 2016 elections, from December to September 18, is expected to come to a vote on July 3.
The bill has strong backing from deputies for the United Russia, A Just Russia, and ultranationalist Liberal Democratic parties.
Only the Communist Party has publicly opposed the move, vowing to appeal to the Constitutional Court or even the European Court of Human Rights if necessary to block the move.
The opposition has accused the Kremlin of orchestrating the date change to just after the autumn lull so as to discourage political participation and thus minimize political fallout from the current economic crisis.
The last State Duma elections, in December 2011, just months after Vladimir Putin signaled his return to the presidency after a four-year stint as prime minister, triggered mass protests.
Russia's upper house, the Federation Council, on June 24 asked the Constitutional Court to clarify whether the proposal to move the vote was constitutional, giving that body an unusually short period to rule on the case.