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Incumbent Milos Zeman won the first round of the Czech Republic's presidential election on Saturday with 39.80 percent of the vote, results from 90.3 percent of voting districts showed.

The favourite in the field of nine candidates vying for a spot in the election runoff later this month is the outspoken incumbent, President Milos Zeman, who at 73 has watched his country become more politically divided during his five-year tenure. A former diplomat Pavel Fischer was a distant third with 10.1 percent. Songwriter Michal Horacek finished fourth with 9.2 percent, ahead of physician Marek Hilser, who had 8.8 percent.

The combined voter support for the three also-rans stood at 28.24 percent.

After the official results were published, Zeman said at a press conference that he was ready for participation in debates with Drahos.

Zeman is expected to win the first round of elections on Friday and Saturday.

Leading the charge against Mr Zeman is Jiri Drahos.

"As you can see, my security detail works quite well because she did not get to me", said the Czech president.

Election officials said voter turnout was 61.9 percent in the preliminary election. He called on all those "who want a change" to cast ballots.

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"Drahos has made it very clear that a prosecuted man should not be prime minister", Pehe said.

Zeman was elected to the largely ceremonial post in 2013 during the country's first direct presidential vote, a victory that returned the former left-leaning prime minister to power.

He was one of the few European leaders to endorse Donald Trump's bid for the White House, and has voiced support for Trump's plan to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

They are also pivotal in forming governments - which the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member country is now trying to do.

The previous two presidents of the country created in 1993 when Czechoslovakia was split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus, were elected by Parliament.

The president also appoints members of the Central Bank board and selects Constitutional Court judges with the approval of Parliament's upper house.

Otherwise, the president has little executive power and the country is run by the government chosen and led by the prime minister, now populist billionaire Andrej Babis, a Zeman ally who faces fraud charges. 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 vote, likely to end in a run-off in two weeks, is seen as a referendum on 73-year-old Zeman, in office since 2013, who has harshly criticized migration from Muslim countries and is keen to boost ties with Russian Federation and China. Drahos isn't affiliated with a political party. He says he is anxious about the rise of extremism and populism.


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