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Czechs elect president by direct vote for 1st time

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 12, 2013 at 9:43 a.m.

— Former leftist Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg appear to be the front runners in the first round of the presidential election in the Czech Republic.

With the votes from 95 percent of polling stations counted Saturday, Zeman was leading with 24.47 percent of the vote, followed by Schwarzenberg with 22.68 percent. Another former premier Jan Fischer was third with 16.57 percent.

With no candidate achieving a majority, the top two finishers — Zeman and Schwarzenberg — would face each other in a runoff in two weeks.

Czechs are electing the country’s president in a direct popular vote for the first time, choosing from nine candidates to replace euroskeptic President Vaclav Klaus.

Zeman and Fischer were considered favorites.

Klaus’ second and final term in office ends March 7.

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