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Czech Republic: Klaus Elected President

Prague, 28 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Opposition candidate Vaclav Klaus was elected president of the Czech Republic today. Speaker of parliament Lubomir Zaoralek announced Klaus's election and congratulated the new Czech president. "In the third round of the third election, Vaclav Klaus was elected president of the Czech Republic. On behalf of both chambers of the parliament, let me congratulate you, Mr. President, and wish you a lot of energy, optimism and success in your further work for this country," he said.

In the third round of secret balloting today, Klaus received 142 votes in the 281-member joint session of parliament, just one vote more than the simple majority needed to win. Klaus, a former center-right prime minister, received crucial support from nonaligned communists enabling him to beat out the candidate of the governing coalition, former Education Minister and university dean Jan Sokol.

Afterward, Klaus thanked the parliamentarians who voted for him and said, "I would like to assure the Czech government that I am prepared for fruitful and efficient work with them for the good of this country."

It was the third attempt to elect a president since January. Klaus takes the place of Vaclav Havel who left office at the start of February.

Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla said he would congratulate Klaus on his election but Spidla added it certainly was not a success for the ruling coalition.