The Czech Republic has opened two days of voting for a new parliament with an eye to replacing the current caretaker government.
Latest opinion polls showed a lead for the leftist Social Democrats -- but indicators suggest that party is likely to fall short of a majority and will need to negotiate to find coalition partners.
The Social Democrats, who have promised more welfare benefits for ordinary Czechs and higher taxes for high earners, are being challenged by the center-right Civic Democrats, who have warned of the possibility of a Greek-style financial crisis in the Czech Republic and have called for cuts in public spending.
Other parties competing for the 200 seats in the lower house of parliament of the NATO and European Union member country include two newly formed parties, the conservative TOP 09 and the populist Public Affairs, as well as the Communist Party, the Greens and Christian Democrats.
Parties must gain more than 5 percent of the vote to reach parliament.
The Czech government has been run by an interim administration since the previous center-right government was toppled in March 2009.
Polling booths opened today at 2 p.m. and will close at 10 p.m. local time. On May 29, they are open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
compiled from agency reports