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Originally published Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 4:36 AM

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Russia's Putin orders reform of parliament

President Vladimir Putin submitted a bill Wednesday that would change how the upper house of the Russian parliament is formed, a move he said would make it more democratic but which critics said wouldn't change the body's role as an obedient tool of the Kremlin.

The Associated Press

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MOSCOW —

President Vladimir Putin submitted a bill Wednesday that would change how the upper house of the Russian parliament is formed, a move he said would make it more democratic but which critics said wouldn't change the body's role as an obedient tool of the Kremlin.

Under the current system, the Federation Council is made up of randomly chosen former officials or rich businessmen with government links, with two representatives for each of Russia's 87 regions.

Putin's bill will have candidates for provincial governors publicly name their choice for an upper house member from the region ahead of local elections. The second candidate for each province should be a member of its legislature, Putin said.

The bill requires approval from the lower house of parliament as well as the Federation Council itself. Given both bodies' genuflection to Putin, it is all but certain to quickly pass.

Putin won a third presidential term in March's election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow against his rule.

He has approved a series of political reforms supposedly aimed at making Russia's tightly controlled political system more democratic. The opposition has dismissed the changes as window dressing that wouldn't weaken Putin's steely grip on power.

Alexander Kynev, an independent political expert, was quoted by the online Gazeta.ru as saying that the upper house's makeup would continue to depend on political manipulations and not the people's will.

"As before, the house will be formed not by the voters but through some strange procedures," he said.

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