Russians and others from around the globe were not surprised that current president Vladimir Putin was returned in the weekend’s election, but significant questions remain about the manner in which the election was handled. Here is how the world press saw the vote.

Across Russia in recent weeks, members of opposition parties said they had been subjected to intense harassment from the authorities, and people who worked for government agencies and companies that received state financing reported that they had been ordered to vote for United Russia. In some areas, employees were told to get absentee ballots and mark them at their workplaces for United Russia while their supervisors watched. – New York Times

While the elections will lack international legitimacy after Europe’s main observer body boycotted the poll, many Russians appeared happy to endorse the president – who they credit with bringing the country chaotic decade in the 1990s – by supporting United Russia. ”Life has improved for both me and my circle of friends,” said Yelena Parinova, an economist, as she left a polling station. ”Instead of drinking vodka we now drink something healthier because we have something to live for now. For the first time we have a government we can trust.” –

Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a sociologist and political analyst, believes that Putin will become United Russia’s party chief and that the future president would follow his orders — recreating to some extent the Soviet-era model in which the government was subservient to the Communist Party. “A president will be nominated by United Russia, and he will obey party discipline,” she commented recently. Sunday’s election, meanwhile, eliminated all of Putin’s liberal opponents from parliament. – AP

Mr Putin is already at the centre of a depressingly Soviet personality cult that allows no parliamentary oversight and little private criticism of his judgment on vital international questions, such as the future of Kosovo and how to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. The longer he remains in power in such circumstances, the more isolated and ill-advised he his likely to become. In the meantime, what remains of Russia’s political culture will continue to atrophy, so that when the need for change becomes acute the chances of a smooth transition will be remote. That moment could come sooner than most people think. Mr Putin must use his popularity to change the country for the better, not to indulge his personal tastes or his personnel. Power will flow to his anointed successor, but whether the Putinites are more than just a strange phase or lead Russia into the 21st century will be determined in the next few years. – Times Online

Russian president Vladimir Putin and his United Russia party may control the media, the government, and the economy, but they weren’t leaving anything to chance on Sunday’s parliamentary elections. Many opposition parties were not allowed to appear on the ballot. For the past month the full weight of the Kremlin’s power has been devoted to getting out the vote in an election with only one real choice. Opposition leaders were jailed. External election observers from the OSCE dropped plans to monitor the vote, citing “unprecedented restrictions.” – The Other Russia