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Zeman leads in Czech polls

Zeman leads in Czech polls

With a second round scheduled for the 26 and 10% of Czech's still undecided, it's not yet clear who will come out on top.

Mr Zeman, who had shunned public debates ahead of the first round, accepted Mr Drahos' challenge to a television duel and said he hoped voters could make up their own mind.

However, with nearly all ballots counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Zeman had 38.6 percent of the vote, a commanding lead over Drahos' 26.6 percent.

"Mr. Drahos said that he would like to meet me face to face".

Russia-friendly Czech president Milos Zeman won the first round of voting to retain his job on Saturday, but pro-western runner-up Jiri Drahos will be a formidable opponent in the second round vote in two weeks, almost complete results showed.

According to the Czech Statistical Office, the turnout at the voting was about 60 percent.

Drahos, 68, is seen as more western-oriented and pro-EU.

Czechs go to the polls this weekend in the first round of a presidential election.

The outcome may influence Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis's chances of finally forming a cabinet as his first attempt to rule in a minority administration is likely to be rejected by parliament next week.

Unless the victor takes more than 50 percent in the first round, the two highest-scoring candidates will go head to head in a run-off planned for January 26-27.

Before the second round of the previous presidential election in 2013, Babis told daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) he would vote for Zeman's rival Karel Schwarzenberg because Zeman continued with the capitalist mafia and corruption style of former president Vaclav Klaus.

The two-day vote is being seen as a referendum on the outspoken 73-year-old incumbent Milos Zeman, and the direction of the country.

The former president of the Academy of Sciences, Jiri Drahos, and popular song writer Michal Horacek are considered his major challengers among the eight other candidates.

The pro-Russia president will face Jiri Drahos in a runoff in two weeks.

The participation was 61%, nearly same as five years ago, when se elections were held for first time by direct suffrage, since before 2013 president was elected by 200 deputies and 81 senators in a joint session.

Critics say his pro-Russian and anti-migrant rhetoric, scorn for media and support of anti-establishment forces including the far-right party Freedom and Direct Democracy, which advocates leaving the European Union, have overturned the role of the presidency, a job that has traditionally been that of a non-partisan voice of the nation. The head of state is also an influential opinion maker and represents the country overseas - a role that Zeman has used to beef up relations with China and Russian Federation while devoting less time to the country's western allies.

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