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Left Wing Lags In Czech Parliament Vote

Czech President Vaclav Klaus answers questions as he leaves a polling station in Prague.
Polling stations have closed in the Czech Republic, concluding two days of voting for parliament's lower house, the Chamber of Deputies.

The Czech CTK news agency reports that around 60 percent of more than 8 million eligible voters had cast their ballots by midday local time.

Incomplete returns showed that the left-wing Social Democrats had won the most votes of any individual party, but the center-right parties together appeared to have a majority.

The leader of the Social Democrats, Jiri Paroubek, said his party's showing was "certainly not a success" and it was clear the country was headed for a right-wing coalition, according to Reuters. "It seems that people have chosen the direction the republic should go in, and it is a different direction than the one the Social Democrats were offering," Paroubek said after partial results.

The Social Democrats promised more welfare benefits to protect ordinary people from economic turmoil, as well as higher taxes for high earners. Their main challengers, the center-right Civic Democrats, 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 seats include two newly formed opposition parties, the conservative TOP09 and the populist Public Affairs, as well as the Communist Party, the Greens, and Christian Democrats.

Parties must gain more than five percent of the vote to enter parliament.

The Czech government has been run by an interim administration since the previous center-right government was toppled in March 2009.

compiled from agency reports