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Czechs Elect President Directly For The First Time

Polls have opened in the first direct presidential election in the Czech Republic. More than 8 million voters are eligible to chose a new head of state to replace outgoing President Vaclav Klaus. Euro-skeptic Klaus, 71, has completed the maximum two five-year terms allowed by the constitution. Opinion polls ahead of the Friday-Saturday vote show former prime ministers Jan Fischer and Milos Zeman in front, followed by Vladimir Franz, a composer who has tattoos covering most of his body. A total of nine candidates are standing. The top two finishers will compete in a runoff in two weeks. The position is mostly ceremonial, but can be influential through appointments to offices, amnesties, and veto powers.