Russia’s lower house of parliament has passed a law that will make it easier to register political parties in a concession to recent street protests.
The legislation, which still needs rubber-stamping by the upper house, will allow parties with at least 500 members to be registered.
Currently 40,000 are needed to legally form a party – there are just seven such parties in Russia.
Sergei Udaltsov, a leader of December’s demonstrations, called the reform an “important first step.”
But he added: “If further steps are not made, this will be an imitation aimed at preserving the monopoly of power.
The opposition rallied after Vladimir Putin’s United Russia won last year’s parliamentary election amid allegations of voting fraud.
Sergei Mitrokhin of the leftist Yabloko party warned it could tighten Putin’s grip on power as it makes no allowance for creating multi-party blocs and could confuse voters.
President Dimitry Medvedev unveiled the law in January.
He is set to be replaced by Putin in May, who won this month’s presidential election.