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Putin's Ally Suggests Russian Leader Could Hold Early Vote

Aleksei Kudrin, a longtime ally of Vladimir Putin, suggested on June 18 that the Russian president could order an early vote to win a mandate for much-needed economic reforms.

Russia's economy, hit by Western sanctions over Ukraine, and its own dependence on oil prices, has entered a recession, dropping 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year.

Prominent economists have warned that unless Russia makes drastic reforms, it is doomed for stagnation.

Kudrin, Russia's finance minister from 2000-11, suggested at an investment conference June 18 in St. Petersburg that Putin could hold an early election in order to "win the mandate" for economic reforms.

Kudrin told the Associated Press news agency that he hadn't discussed the idea with Putin, whose current term expires in 2018.

Still, he insisted the move was necessary, because of a "dire need of serious measures to restore the economy."

"If you're not ready to conduct [structural reforms] before the reelection, which anyone hardly does, then you need to do it after the election and do the election early," Kudrin explained.

Based on reporting by AP