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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

October Elections Skirt New Measures

Upcoming regional elections will be unaffected by measures curbing political parties' rights, ballot options and extremist candidates, the head of the Central Elections Commission said Wednesday.

Nine regions will vote on legislative candidates Oct. 8, one of two annual election days, the commission head, Alexander Veshnyakov, said at a news conference.

Veshnyakov's comments come in the wake of a slew of restrictive laws pushed through the State Duma that opposition leaders have said limit their chances of getting elected.

One measure eliminates the "against all" option from ballots, often exercised by voters to protest elections thought to be rigged. Another bars parties from running candidates who have other political affiliations. And one bill bans candidates deemed extremist. Critics note that the bill does not define "extremist."

Another measure banning candidates who have dual citizenship also will not apply to the fall elections, Veshnyakov said.

The reason for the delay in the implementation of the bills, Veshnyakov said, is that President Vladimir Putin has yet to sign them into law. The State Duma, which is dominated by the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party, did not move faster to pass the bills because Kremlin officials were divided about their usefulness, said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank.

Four of the nine regions holding elections this fall have already abolished the "against all" option from their ballots, Veshnyakov said. Veshnyakov has warned against the state curtailing voters' freedom. He reiterated his concerns Wednesday. "If we don't give people a chance to choose, we will encounter massive mistrust of elections," he said.

Holding elections in October are the Karelia, Tuva and Chuvashia republics, the Primorye krai, the Astrakhan, Lipetsk, Novgorod and Sverdlovsk regions and the Jewish autonomous region.