Zeman, Schwarzenberg to Face Off in Czech Presidential 2nd Round
Karel Schwarzenberg (L) and Milos Zeman (R). Photos by EPA/BGNES
Former socialist Milos Zeman and current Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg are the two candidates who got the most votes at presidential electioins in the Czech Republic.
Zeman, with 24.22% of the vote, and Schwarzenberg, who follows closely with 23.40% will face off each other on a second round January 25-26.
The election of special importance, being the first time since democratic transition in the Czech Republic in 1989 that the President is elected directly by citizens, rather than by Parliament.
Although of largely symbolic powers, the institution of President is viewed as central for Czech statehood.
This accounts for the high turnout of more than 61% at polling stations Friday and Saturday.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg's performance is seen as surprising, as he was expected to remain third.
According to BBC, the elderly Foreign Minister of a high aristocratic descent is a favorite among the young urban voters.
Rightist candidate Jan Fischer, who was believed to be Zeman's main competitor, however remained third with 16.36%.
He had previously led the polls, but failed to shine in televised debate among candidates.
Both Zeman and Fischer had served as the Czech Republic's PM, 1998-2002 and 2009-10, respectively.
Fourth remained Social Democratic Party candidate Jiri Dienstbier Jr. 16.12%, while famous composer Vladimir Franz, the campaign's unlikely candidate, came out fifth with 6.84%.
The new president will succeed Vaclav Klaus, a conservative Eurosceptic who has led the country for two 5-year terms.
Klaus's predecessor as president was the playwright and dissident Vaclav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that brought down Communist rule in 1989. Havel passed away in December 2011.
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