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Havel meets Czech poll victors

Havel will ask one or more of the parties to form a government
Havel will ask one or more of the parties to form a government  

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Czech President Vaclav Havel is meeting political leaders to discuss the formation of a new government after the ruling Social Democrats won the general election in an overall swing to the left.

Final preliminary results from the two-day vote, which ended on Saturday, showed the party of Vladimir Spidla beating centre-right rivals the Civic Democrats, led by former prime minister Vaclav Klaus.

The Communists, who oppose the country's membership of NATO and are ambivalent about its ambition to join the European Union, unexpectedly surged into third place.

Havel is meeting Spidla, Klaus and coalition leaders Cyril Svoboda and Hana Marvanova before he officially asks one of the parties to try to form a new government.

He is under no obligation to choose the top party but is widely expected to do so.

Key players and election issues 
Parties and policies 

Though he is without an outright majority, Spidla said he was confident of forming a government.

"Our goal is a modern social state and EU entry," Spidla said on Sunday before the talks.

Havel, who was jailed by the former Communist regime for his dissident writings and activism, will not meet their leaders.

Preliminary results showed the Social Democrats won 30.20 percent, with Klaus's rightist Civic Democrats on 24.47 percent.

The coalition of the Christian Democratic Union and the Freedom Union polled 14.27 percent and the Communists 18.51 percent. No other party crossed the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

Turnout was 58 percent, well below the 75 percent average of the last two elections.

The new government, the fifth since the 1989 Velvet Revolution ended decades of communism, will be expected to take the republic's 10.3 million people into the EU, probably by 2004.

It must also choose who will succeed Havel when he stands down next year.


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