Czechs go to polls in presidential run-off.

By bne IntelliNews January 25, 2013
Czechs will be choosing between former premier Milos Zeman and foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg in this weekends presidential run-off and opinion polls give Zeman a slight lead. In the first round of the countrys first direct presidential elections, held on Jan 11-12, Zeman won 24.21% of the votes and was closely followed by Schwarzenberg, who scored a surprise second spot garnering 23.4% of the votes. Zeman, a 68-year-old economist, served as prime minister between 1998 and 2002, and now is running for Citizens' Rights Party (SPOZ) he found in 2010. He was indirectly supported by outgoing president Vaclav Klaus ahead of the run-off vote but Klaus backing is more likely to harm Zemans chances of becoming the Czech Republics third president given the fact that Klaus popularity has slumped in the last month after he announced a mass amnesty that outraged many Czechs. Of the parliamentary parties, the Communists (KSCM) backed Zeman and the major leftish opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) recommended to the voters to support Zeman but CSSDs official candidate Jiri Dienstbier that was eliminated in the first round, considers Schwarzenberg a better choice. Schwarzenberg, a 75-year-old millionaire prince from a centuries-old aristocratic family and also the leader of the junior government party - conservative TOP 09 - was indirectly supported by Jan Fischer, who was one of the presidential favourites before the first round of the elections. Schwarzenberg also enjoys wide support among young Czechs. The pipe-smoking prince, who speaks six languages, is famous for a love of good food, wine, whiskey and for dozing off at boring political meetings. The senior government party centre-right Civic Democrats (ODS) officially backed Schwarzenberg but some of the partys high-profile figures expressed their preferences for Zeman. Whoever of the two candidates wins the run-off scheduled for January 25-26, the next Czech president is widely believed to bring the country closer to the European Union ending a decade of incumbent Vaclav Klaus, an outspoken Eurospectic. Klaus's second and final five-year ends in March 2013. Up to now, the Czech President has been elected by the two houses of Parliament. Czech presidents do not have executive powers, but they have significant influence over the government and the parliament mainly through their right to veto parliamentary decisions and through their power to appoint prime ministers, central bankers and judges. The turnout at the first round of the presidential elections was 61.3%.

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