Czechs vote in 2nd round of presidential election

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Voters in the Czech Republic began to cast their ballots on Friday afternoon in the second round of this year’s presidential election. The first round was held on Jan. 13-14.

Since postal ballots are not an option, Czechs living abroad could already go to the polls on Thursday so that their votes can make it in time for the final tally on Saturday.

The two candidates in the two-day runoff are retired army general Petr Pavel and former prime minister Andrej Babis.

The winner will succeed incumbent President Milos Zeman, whose second and final term ends in early March.

The election results are expected to be announced late on Saturday.

Analysts predict a higher voter turnout this weekend, pointing to aggressive campaigning by both candidates.

Pavel, 61, served as head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Military Committee. He was endorsed by the current ruling government coalition. Babis, 68, the head of the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO) party, served as prime minister from 2017 to 2021.

Public opinion polls have given Pavel an edge over Babis. In the first round, which included eight candidates, Pavel received 35.4 percent of the vote to Babis’s 34.99 percent.

Voter turnout was 68 percent, about six percentage points higher than that in the 2018 election.

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.

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