Russian lawmakers back bill holding 2016 parliamentary election to several months earlier

Lawmakers in Russia's Kremlin-controlled parliament have given tentative approval to a bill that would move up next year's parliamentary election by three months, a tactic seen by critics as an attempt to weaken the opposition.

The lower house voted 339-101 with one abstention Friday to approve the bill in the first of three readings. It would also need to be approved by the equally-docile upper house and signed by President Vladimir Putin.

The bill envisages moving the 2016 parliamentary election from December to September. It would likely result in a lower public interest in the campaign, as many Russians go on vacation in the summer, paying less attention to politics.

On Thursday, ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said Putin, whose term ends in 2018, also could order an early presidential vote.