[JURIST] The Russian parliament on Wednesday gave second reading approval to amendments to the country's election law that could further strengthen President Vladimir Putin's government. The proposals would ban the formation of blocs by political parties and block the use of "against all" protest votes on ballots. The changes come after Putin previously abolished gubernatorial elections allowing the Kremlin to appoint regional leaders. New election rules in the State Duma [official website in Russian] functionally prohibit small parties and independent candidates from having access to the chamber. The pro-Putin United Russia party [official website in Russian; Wikipedia backgrounder] already controls enough of the Duma to pass legislation regardless of opposition. Reuters has more.