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Zeman leads after first round of Czech president elections

January 12, 2013, 19:41 UTC+3

The first round of presidential elections ended with a high turnout

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PRAGUE, January 12 (Itar-Tass) – Former Prime Minister Milos Zeman is leading after the first round of presidential elections in the Czech Republic held on Saturday, January 12.

Twenty-six percent of voters cast their ballots for Zeman, according to the national statistics office, which has processed reports from one-third of polling stations.

Unexpectedly for observers, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, 75, came in second with 20 percent, having edged independent candidate Jan Fischer, who was considered a hopeful, to third place with 18 percent.

Election ratings suggested that Schwarzenberg could be fourth in the first round, at best.

The other contenders received from 17 to 2 percent of votes. Since none of the nine candidates received more than 50 percent of votes in the first round, a runoff election will be held on February 25 and 26, with the top two candidates -- Zeman and Schwarzenberg -- competing for the post of chief executive.

The first round of presidential elections ended with a high turnout.

According to the Central Election Commission, several hours before the polling stations closed, the turnout had exceeded 50 percent in Prague and in the Liberec, Karlovy Vary and Moravia-Silesia regions.

In the town of Nove Veseli, where one of the presidential hopefuls, Milos Zeman was born, up to 75 percent of voters had cast their ballots by 14:00 when the polling stations closed.

In some localities, people had to stand in lines for a long time in order to vote.

Analysts say that the activity of people in the country’s first direct popular presidential elections was higher than in the local and Senate elections in October 2012.

Preliminary results of the first round are expected to be announced at about 18:00 local time (21:00 Moscow time) on Saturday, January 12.

No incidents were registered during the elections, police said.

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