PRAGUE, Czech Republic Former left-leaning Prime Minister Milos Zeman staged a big return to power Saturday by winning the Czech Republic’s first directly elected presidential vote.
With almost all the votes counted Saturday, the Czech Statistics Office reported that Zeman won 54.8 percent of the vote for the largely ceremonial post.
His opponent, conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, had 45.9 percent.
“Long live Zeman!” his supporters chanted at his campaign headquarters in Prague.
“I promise that as a president elected in a direct popular vote I will try to be the voice of all citizens,” Zeman said.
Since Czechoslovakia officially split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993, the Czech Republic has had two presidents elected by Parliament: Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus. But bickering during those votes led the legislature to give that decision to the general public.
The 68-year-old Zeman will replace the euro-skeptic Klaus, whose second and final term ends March 7. Zeman is considered more favorable toward the 27-nation European Union, to which the country belongs.