[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin [official profile] on Wednesday signed into law [press release] a controversial bill that eliminates a rule requiring at least 50 percent of voters to turn out in order for poll results to be validated. Putin signed the measure despite opposition by Ella Pamfilova [official profile], the chairwoman of Putin's Human Rights Council [official website], and other critics who argued that the minimum turnout rule is an important means of political protest because people can express discontent with the system by not voting. The new law also expands the list of people who are ineligible to run for election and bans political parties and candidates from campaigning against their opponents on television. Putin's opponents say his actions are part of a plan to decrease democratic freedoms in Russia [JURIST news archive].
Putin has also signed laws making it more difficult for certain candidates and small parties to register and run in elections, changes critics say are part of an effort by the Kremlin [official website] to ensure Putin is replaced by an approved successor when his term ends in 2008. Putin has, however, ruled out a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] that would allow him to pursue a third term in office. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 2007 with presidential elections following in March 2008. Reuters has more.