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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Electoral Reform Approved

The Federation Council on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed controversial Kremlin-backed legislation that severely tightens election regulations.

A spokeswoman for the Federation Council said the chamber voted 142-1 to pass the raft of bills, which opposition parties say is a Kremlin effort to further dominate political life.

The bill now goes to President Vladimir Putin for his signature.

The legislation strips deputies who quit their State Duma factions of their jobs, while deputies who are expelled from their factions would become independent.

The bill also allows officials to bar foreign election observers, ends elections of independent deputies, raises the threshold for parties to get parliament seats and bars parties from uniting into election blocs ahead of votes.

The measures, which were passed by the Duma last week, were initiated by Putin in the wake of September's school hostage-taking in Beslan, North Ossetia.

The Kremlin said the changes will strengthen the country against the threat of terrorism.

Critics say the legislation will only strengthen the pro-Kremlin United Russia party and allow Kremlin leaders to further manipulate politics.

Western countries have criticized the electoral reforms, with the United States and others expressing concern that Putin is backsliding on democracy.