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Leftist candidate Milos Zeman wins Czech presidential election

From Melissa Gray, CNN
updated 4:40 AM EST, Sun January 27, 2013
Milos Zeman has won the Czech Republic's first presidential election.
Milos Zeman has won the Czech Republic's first presidential election.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Milos Zeman, a former prime minister, wins the Czech presidency
  • He replaces Vaclav Klaus, who is term limited
  • Analyst: Zeman is open to a government dependent on Communist Party support

(CNN) -- A leftist candidate won the Czech Republic's first presidential election decided by direct vote.

Milos Zeman, a former prime minister and head of the Citizens' Rights Party, won with 54.8% of the vote, according to the Czech News Agency.

He defeated Karel Schwarzenberg, an aristocratic foreign minister with the TOP09 party, who garnered 45.2%.

Zeman replaces Vaclav Klaus, who must step down after serving the maximum of two terms.

The main issues in the election were national security, anti-corruption measures, accession to the eurozone, appointment of judges and presidential pardons of convicts, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Until 2012, the parliament elected the president for a five-year term. After years of debate on the topic, fueled by allegations of corruption in the voting process, the constitution was amended a year ago to provide for direct presidential elections, according to the OSCE.

In the 1990s, Zeman was Klaus' only real rival on the political scene.

Schwarzenberg was personally and professionally close to late President Vaclav Havel.

The Czech presidency is a largely ceremonial post, though the president plays an important role in foreign policy and government formation, according to Sean Hanley, an analyst at University College London.

Both Zeman and Schwarzenberg are Europhiles. Both were willing to contemplate a government dependent on Communist Party support, opening the way for likely Communist-Social Democrat cooperation in government after the next parliamentary elections in 2014, Hanley said.

CNN's Per Nyberg, Richard Allen Greene and Joseph Netto contributed to this report.

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