Michael Idov argues that the "election" of Dmitri Medvedev was not really an election at all, but rather a further extension of Vladimir Putin's power in an increasingly complacent Russia:
Putin's historic achievement is the creation, in eight short years, of what the chief Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov terms suverennaya demokratiya ("sovereign democracy") and what's been rechristened, in liberal circles, suvenirnaya demokratiya: "souvenir democracy." In brief, this system consists of a narrow executive silo--about 50 Putin insiders spread out among government agencies--through which all policy is funneled, and a collection of decorative Western-style institutions pivoting around it. The fat around Putin's lean machine includes a costly, tautological United Russia party structure, useless regional governments (since 2004, the president appoints governors directly), and an equally useless State Duma, the lower house of the parliament. Under the rules imposed just in time for last December's parliamentary election, voters now pick between parties, as opposed to individual delegates--and Putin's status as the head of United Russia happened to put his name at the top of every ballot. You thus voted not for parliamentary representation but for something called "Putin's Plan." A United Russia landslide ensued, helped along by epidemic poll fraud: The official ballot counts amusingly spike on every round number (70, 80, 90), a pattern possible only with furious rounding-up. By January of 2008, newspapers began dropping the name "United Russia" from articles. What Russia had was, once again, The Party.