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Czech Republic holds presidential election

A voter casts his ballot at a polling station in Cernoucek, 60km from Prague, on Jan 13, 2023, during the first round of the presidential elections. (MICHAL CIZEK / AFP)

PRAGUE — Voters in the Czech Republic went to the polls on Friday to elect a new head of state for the next 5 years to succeed incumbent President Milos Zeman.

Voting started at 2:00 pm on Friday and will continue on Saturday. About 8.3 million citizens are reportedly eligible to vote.

If none of the candidates wins an absolute majority in the first round, a second round will be held two weeks later

Voters will choose from a pool of eight candidates. They are: former Prime Minister Andrej Babis, 68; member of the Chamber of Deputies Jaroslav Basta, 74; Senators Pavel Fischer, 57, and Marek Hilser, 46; economist Danuse Nerudova, 44, the only female candidate; retired General Petr Pavel, 61; entrepreneur Karel Divis, 46; and former university Rector Tomas Zima, 56.

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Babis, leader of the opposition Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) party, Pavel, former head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Military Committee, and Nerudova, former Rector of Mendel University in Brno, are favorites going into the first election round, according to polls.

Fischer and Hilser, who failed in the 2018 presidential elections, will be running for a second time.

If none of the candidates wins an absolute majority in the first round, a second round will be held two weeks later. The two candidates with the strongest support will advance to the second round.

The results of the first round are expected late on Saturday.

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The president of the Czech Republic is chosen in a direct election and serves a term of five years. The mandate can be held for a maximum of two consecutive terms. President Zeman's second term ends in early March.