Russia’s President, Dmitry Medvedev, has proposed reinstating direct elections of regional governors, in a far-reaching plan for political reform.
Direct elections were abolished by his predecessor Vladimir Putin in 2004, since when the governors have been Kremlin appointees.
Mr. Medvedev was addressing the full Russian parliament, live on television.
His speech comes after tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Moscow over alleged election abuses.
“We must give all active citizens the opportunity to take part in political life,” Mr. Medvedev said in his state of the nation speech – the last such speech before he steps down next March.
The procedure for registering political parties must be simplified, he continued.
“The presidential elections [next year] must be honest, transparent, responding to the requirements of legality and justice,” he said.
But he warned that “provocateurs and extremists” would not be allowed to create divisions in society.
“Attempts to manipulate Russian citizens, to confuse them, stir up divisions in society are unacceptable,” he said.
Another big opposition demonstration is expected on Saturday, amid continuing demands for a re-run of the 4 December parliamentary election.
The ruling party, United Russia, lost a quarter of its seats in the vote – a big slump in its support.
Mr. Medvedev said he would introduce a draft law to change the system for registering a political party.
Registration would require the signatures of 500 people from at least half of all the country’s regions. Currently the requirement is 40,000 signatures.
He also proposed that presidential candidates would need 300,000 signatures to register, instead of the current requirement of two million.
Party candidates in elections would require 100,000 signatures, instead of the current two million.—BBC