From a Western point of view, no other candidate in the race would have been preferable to Putin. We know him, he knows us, and neither faction is likely to miscalculate with regards to the other. Putin seems the only leader on the horizon with the necessary resolve, know-how, and ruthlessness to make the country work.
The fact that the top politician in Russia can be denounced in the streets with something resembling impunity, is reassuring and evidence of democracy. Russia is not the old Soviet Union where criticism was viewed as treason, and elections were won by 98 per cent of the vote going to the only candidate on the ballot.