"Russians across 11 time zones voted today in what looked like an ordinary election. And in many respects it was.
In central Moscow, a steady flow of people from the local area came into the polling station to vote. It was all very orderly; there were no visible irregularities -- no intimidation or interference from party apparatchiks -- all very above board and normal.
At least at this level, there was no question that these elections were free; the question is how fair were they ever going to be.
There was only ever one candidate who was going to win this race. Indeed there was only really one proper candidate -- Dimitri Medvedev.
Even before the election, there was no doubt in or outside Russia that he would emerge from the election as the new president, all because he was all but annointed by current President Vladimir Putin.
Late this evening the Central Election Commission said that with ballots from two-thirds of the country's electoral precincts counted, Medvedev had received 69 percent of the vote. His closest rival was Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov, who had just 18 percent.
Analysts and opposition politicians have been scathing in their criticism of the process.
Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov dismissed the elections as a fraud.
"It is just an imitation of the important democratic institution with the name 'free and fair democratic elections,'" he said. "That is not the case in Russia right now. It means on top of not having a legitimate parliament, very soon we'll have an illegitimate president."
And according to Garry Kasparov -- leader of the Other Russia opposition group and former world chess champion -- they "are not paying attention even to the formalities and they eliminated the whole process which is now one big fake".
The reason for such critique lies in the nature of Medvedev's candidacy. He is a 42-year-old former lawyer who, up until a few years ago, was relatively unknown.
The key to his success? Being the hand-picked successor of the incredibly popular President Putin.
"[Medvedev's] main claim to fame in the public opinion today is the fact that he's close to Putin and trusted by him," Masha Lipman, a an analyst with the Carnegie Institute told ABC News. "There is nothing else to him."
Voters we talked to pretty much agreed, but didn't seem to see his closeness to Putin as a negative.
"[Medvedev] was promoted by our President Putin so we want... I believe all normal people here want to have the same direction as the direction of this country," a woman named Leanna said. "We want to stick to Putin's course and I believe Medvedev is the best who will continue this development of Russia."
There is no denying Putin's enormous popularity. Russians credit him with restoring their country's place in the world after the chaos and havoc of the 1990s.
During his eight years as president, energy prices have soared and the Russian economy has thrived. Seen in this light, the results of today's election do not come as a surprise. The question now is what Medvedev's presidency holds for Russia and the world
Putin has agreed to serve as Medvedev's prime minister, signaling that he will continue to wield enormous influence after he steps down. Many speculate that Medvedev will be Putin's puppet.
"Medvedev and Putin are the same. A very close group. Like family... Putin will rule and Medvedev will be his assistant," political analyst and former Duma member Vladimir Ryzhkov told ABC News.
The Bush administration has been cautious about pre-judging Medvedev, however. During Putin's presidency relations with America deteriorated over issues such as a nuclear Iran and America's proposed missile defense plan.
There is little expectation that this will change in the near future.
As the exit polls rolled in this evening, Putin and Medvedev strode through Red Square together before taking the stage for the cameras.
Medvedev wore a leather jacket, projecting a new, tougher image that was a far cry from his normally demure persona. People will now be watching closely to see what the new president is really made of."
ABC World News