Czech presidential election heads for new round

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Neither incumbent Václav Klaus nor challenger Jan Švejnar emerged victorious after three rounds of voting in the Czech presidential election over the weekend. Attention now shifts to February 15 when both candidates will contest another vote. (Based on reporting from EURACTIV Czech Republic).

66-year-old Civic Democrat candidate Klaus, who is seeking a second term, received 139 votes to Švejnar’s 113 after a third round of voting had stretched into Saturday night (February 9). The contest continues after Klaus failed by just one vote to win the absolute majority of both chambers of the country’s parliament required for re-election. 

“In the third round neither candidate was elected. Basically a president was not elected,” lower house speaker Miloslav Vlcek explained after reading out the results. 

When Parliament convened on Friday (February 8), it was unclear as to whether the election would go ahead at all as a long-running dispute over the voting procedure to be used had not been resolved (see EURACTIV 08/02/08). 

While the Civic Democrats (ODS), the dominant members of the ruling coalition, favoured the traditional secret ballot to safeguard the “dignified conduct of the election,” the opposition Social Democrats (CSSD) led calls from most other parties for an open vote amid fears that the secret ballot would lead to political horse-trading. 

The main political parties spent much of the day locked in a heated debate which was eventually settled in favour of an open ballot. When voting did eventually go ahead late on Friday, however, the result after the first two rounds was inconclusive, with euro-sceptic Klaus winning the support of the Civic Democrat-dominated Senate and the pro-EU, US citizen Švejnar taking the lower chamber on both occasions. 

The Communist Party (KSCM) finished the weekend in a strong position after their decision to abstain from the third round of voting proved decisive to the final outcome. 

Speculation is mounting that the communists will seek concessions from the social democrats in return for supporting Švejnar in the next round, after their votes contributed to his victory in the lower chamber. Asked to officially comment on the issue, however, the party would only insist that it would not support a candidate against the will of its voters, announcing its intention to put forward a new nominee itself. 

The two leading parties will now seek to garner support for their candidates ahead of next Friday’s fourth-round vote (February 15). 

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