Vladimir Putin
The lower house of Russia's parliament has given final approval to electoral reforms authorities say will guarantee stability, but opponents call further efforts by the Kremlin to dominate political life.

The State Duma approved changes to 13 legislative acts, to bring them in line with earlier amendments to the basic election law, which restrict the roles of parties in political life. The new rules bar independent deputies from running for parliament and ban parties from joining forces for electoral advantage. They also raise the threshold for winning seats in parliament from the current five to seven percent.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the changes in September following the school hostage crisis in southern Russia that left more than 330 people dead, many of them children.

Lawmakers earlier had approved ending direct popular election of regional governors, leaving the choice up to the president.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.