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Pro-EU Leftist Wins Czech Presidency

Left-leaning former prime minister Milos Zeman has won the Czech Republic's first direct presidential election since the break-up of the former Czechoslovakia two decades ago.

Zeman captured 55 percent of the vote in a run-off against conservative Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg after two days of voting that ended Saturday.

The president-elect thanked those who supported him and congratulated his rival. He stressed that he wants to serve all the Czech people.

The 68-year-old, who favors the expansion of the European Union, will replace President Vaclav Klaus, whose term ends in March.

The voting on Friday and Saturday marked the first time a Czech president was elected by popular vote since Slovakia and the Czech Republic broke apart in 1993. Since then Czech presidents have been chosen by parliament.

Zeman's campaign appealed to lower-income and older voters in regions of the country that have suffered in the country's economic downturn. During his campaign he promised to tackle corruption.

MILOS ZEMAN, President-elect))

"I want to be president of the bottom 10 million. These include voters for Milos Zeman as well as Karel Schwarzenberg. I don't want to be president of mafias that act as parasites on this society."

The Czech presidency is a mostly ceremonial, but the president does yield political influence at a time when the country is struggling to overcome economic decline.

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