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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.

Presidential candidate Vladimir Franz, a musician and artist known for his full-body tattoos, waits to cast his ballot in Prague.
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Presidential candidate Vladimir Franz, a musician and artist known for his full-body tattoos, waits to cast his ballot in Prague.

The candidates appear at their final pre-election debate.
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The candidates appear at their final pre-election debate.

The Czech presidential candidates prepare for a pre-election debate on television. In the front are Milos Zeman (left), Vladimir Franz, and Karel Schwarzenberg.
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The Czech presidential candidates prepare for a pre-election debate on television. In the front are Milos Zeman (left), Vladimir Franz, and Karel Schwarzenberg.

Vladimir Franz appears beside rivals Milos Zeman (left) and Jiri Dienstbier.
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Vladimir Franz appears beside rivals Milos Zeman (left) and Jiri Dienstbier.

A mother casts a ballot at a polling station in Prague, accompanied by her son.
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A mother casts a ballot at a polling station in Prague, accompanied by her son.

Candidate Jan Fischer speaks to the media after casting his vote.
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Candidate Jan Fischer speaks to the media after casting his vote.

Candidate Milos Zeman and his daughter Katerina arrive at a polling station in Prague.
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Candidate Milos Zeman and his daughter Katerina arrive at a polling station in Prague.

An elderly woman leaves a polling station in Prague.
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An elderly woman leaves a polling station in Prague.

Residents walk through the snow to vote.
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Residents walk through the snow to vote.

A child looks out from behind a curtain as her mother fills up her ballot.
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A child looks out from behind a curtain as her mother fills up her ballot.

A billboard features presidential candidate Milos Zeman (left); beside it is a photograph of former Czech President Vaclav Havel wearing a T-shirt showing presidential candidate and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
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A billboard features presidential candidate Milos Zeman (left); beside it is a photograph of former Czech President Vaclav Havel wearing a T-shirt showing presidential candidate and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livia at a polling station in Prague. Klaus is leaving office after serving two five-year terms.
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Czech President Vaclav Klaus and his wife Livia at a polling station in Prague. Klaus is leaving office after serving two five-year terms.

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