The election result in Russia is hardly unexpected: Putin won.
Except he didn't.. quite.
The political system for elections to the Duma does not permit liberal parties to participate. The choice is limited to the neo-fascist "Liberal Democrats", the rump Communist Party and a party "Fair Russia" which has been widely considered to be another bunch of Kremlin stooges. Under the circumstances you would expect the Putinista vehicle "United Russia" to walk every election.
Just in case, however, the only free election monitors- Glos- were harassed and more liberal media outlets had their websites hacked. United Russia was advertised at every sports event and public gathering- its opponents were not. United Russia had the full resources of the Russian state behind them- civil servants and other state employees are compelled to support the party. Significantly, the non Russian republics, such as Chechnya had a recorded vote of 99% for United Russia, while large areas in St Petersburg and Moscow gave less than 30% of the vote to the ruling party.
So far so unsurprising.
However, as I have suggested here for some time now, even with the full force of the oppressive Russian state behind him, Putin faces some increasing challenges to his untrammelled rule. the majority of Russians, in the Russian Federation did not vote for Putin, even as the non Russians "voted" 99% for him.
Even with every card in his hand, and a few stolen ones up his sleeve, the drastic fall in support for United Russia is all too obvious. It is an interesting legacy to leave for Medvedev, when he waltzes into the Prime Minister's office after Putins "re-election" as President. In fact it makes it all but certain that Medvedev will not complete his term as PM, even if Putin completes his term as President.
Of course that assumes that Putin is indeed returned to office in March. When even a manipulated choice between evils based in an biased media environment and harassed election monitoring can not hide Russian disenchantment with the kleptocracy that runs them, then it is fair to say that the stability of the regime can not be what it was.
While I think Putin may well re-enter the Presidential office on schedule, I am increasingly sure that his plans for two more Presidential terms will be disrupted. Having entered office promising stability, he has created stagnation and will leave in disorder.