Prague: Incumbent east-looking Milos Zeman won the first round of the Czech Republic`s presidential election on Saturday but runner-up Jiri Drahos may pose a strong challenge in the second round in two weeks, nearly complete results showed.

Zeman`s inclination towards far-right groups and his warm relations with Russia and China have split public opinion, with a sizeable chunk of the electorate favouring pro-western candidates, including 68-year-old academic Drahos.

Czech presidents have limited executive powers but Zeman and his predecessors have had a strong influence on public debate. They are also pivotal in forming governments – which the European Union and NATO member country is now trying to do.

With votes from 97.6 percent of districts counted, Zeman led the race with 39.0 percent of votes, while Drahos had won 26.4 percent. 

That means a run-off needs to be held. Several candidates running on platforms similar to Drahos scored high single-digit results and some of their…

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