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Zeman to face Schwarzenberg in Czech run-off

Milos Zeman, a former center-left prime minister, has won the first round of the Czech Republic's presidential election. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg will be his challenger in the second round.

Zeman won with 24.2 percent of the vote. Schwarzenberg, who hails from a centuries-old aristocratic family, had 23.4 percent and is set to face Zeman on Jan. 26.

Former Prime Minister Jan Fischer, a technocrat tainted by a communist past who had been favored over Schwarzenberg, received 16.35 percent.

Social Democrat Senator Jiri Dienstbier - son of the deceased Lidove Noviny founder - finished fourth with 16 percent. Vladimir Franz, a composer covered head to toe in tattoos, fell far short of expectations with just 6.84 percent of the vote.

The vote allowed Czechs to directly choose a president for the first time since achieving statehood in 1993.

Nine candidates vied to replace the climate-change denier and euroskeptic Vaclav Klaus, who declared a broad amnesty on January 1 that set free people sentenced to prison for minor crimes - many of whom happened to be ex-politicians serving time for corruption. Klaus leaves Prague Castle, the official residence of the head of state, on March 7.

mkg/rc (AP)

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