Vladimir Putin's win in presidential elections came as no surprise; the European media are now looking at what's in store for Russia. Most editors seem to agree that Putin should not underestimate the new opposition.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's victory made headlines in European newspapers, with reports that Putin had won more than 63 percent of the vote. But the opposition and independent observers claimed the election had been marred by fraud.
According to Bulgaria's Kapital Daily the election results in Russia came as no surprise to anyone either inside or outside of Russia. "But it's more important how the opposition is going to react and what kind of moves Putin is ready to make. He has to choose between reforms and ongoing protests, reprisal and economic stagnation." But no matter what his decision, "he has to renounce his absolute power."
The French daily Le Figaro stated that Putin would be ill-advised to regard the result as a mandate to ignore his critics as "a new opposition was born in the protests against the result of the parliamentary polls." Even if "it wasn't enough to force a second round in the presidential election," the paper continues, "it will have to be taken into account because it will follow the rest of his presidency."
Britain's The Financial Times writes that Russia had noticeably changed from when Putin was first elected in 2000. The growing middle-class movement would be unlikely to support him for another two terms. "This is not business as usual. The middle-class protests of recent weeks show that politics, after a 12-year slumber, have reawoken."
Strasbourg's newspaper Dernieres Nouvelles d'Alsace tries to examine the reasons for Putin's victory. According to the paper, it's due to Russia's structural political weaknesses - the protests which started three months ago lacked a leader. "None of these young movements was able to propose an alternative - especially since the pseudo election campaign was taken over by the Kremlin as usual."
Spanish left-liberal daily El Periódico de Catalunya writes that Putin put an end to the instability of the 90s when he first came to power. But conditions will be quite different now when he returns to the Kremlin. "The emergence of a protest movement shows that Putin's time as Russia's strong man is running out," the paper writes. "It can be expected that Moscow will pursue a nationalistic and authoritarian policy from now on. Above all, Russia needs reforms." But this would require a crack-down on corruption, "which doesn't seem to be on the agenda of the new president."
According to German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Putin managed to show how to win and lose at the same time. "What kind of success is this, which has been accompanied by more than 2,000 complaints, by doubts and protests?" the newspaper asks. "Ignorance on one side, rage on the other" - this is how Russia will reach a dangerous deadlock where "Russian society will increasingly divide into Putin opponents and Putin supporters," the newspaper writes. "The next couple of days will tell how big the rift really is between the state and people."
Compiled by Sarah Steffen
Editor: Joanna Impey