In 2004, Vladimir Putin dumped the popular election of regional governors; last year, he restated them under the weight of protests that greeted his third term. As of today, those elections may once again be scrapped, per a law signed by Putin. As Reuters reports, Russia's 83 local legislatures now have the right to nix direct elections for governor—and if they chose to do so, they'll each instead select a governor from a trio of candidates chosen by Putin himself.
The return to direct elections "was a feint," says an opposition leader. "Now Putin thinks the protests have faded and he has decided to roll back everything." Putin claims the new measure safeguards minority rights in diverse areas like the North Caucasus, near where next year's Olympics are to be held. The Kremlin fears local unrest as well as the installation of potentially disloyal candidates, Reuters notes. Indeed, critics fear the law will be used to keep opposition candidates out of the running.