Czech presidential election fails to produce head of state

Other News Materials 9 February 2008 18:57 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa )- A tight Czech presidential election failed Saturday to produce a result as lawmakers ended a third - and for the moment last - round of voting.

They were left having soon to open a new voting process to elect a president due to hold office for the next five years, including the Czech Republic's presidency of the European Union.

Failure Saturday to choose a president in the third round of voting - where both houses voted together and a majority of present lawmakers was required - meant they must restart the entire process.

The first two rounds of voting took place late on Friday after a protracted battle over whether the new Czech president should be elected by secret or open ballot.

Neither candidate - incumbent Vaclav Klaus, 66, and Czech-US economist Jan Svejnar, 55 - received the needed majority of 140 votes of the 278 lawmakers present in Saturday's last ballot.

The frontrunner, political veteran Klaus, missed re-election by one vote as 139 lawmakers raised their hand in his favour. Political neophyte Svejnar managed to get 113 votes.

Both Klaus and Svejnar told reporters that they were ready to run again.

Klaus - a Euro-sceptic who has also expressed doubt about global warming - symbolizes the post-communist era stressed continuity while pro-European Svejnar offers to take the country to the future.

Three parliamentarians were missing during during the vote, as they allegedly fell ill or even collapsed during the protracted and highly-charged election session that started Friday.

Both camps had been attacking each other Saturday morning to put pressure on individual lawmakers so they would vote in their favour.

On Friday a full afternoon of scrambling over voting procedure preceded the two initial rounds of voting that had also failed to produce a winner.

Czech presidents have limited powers but the office is highly regarded by the public. The president appoints prime ministers, names judges, suggests Constitutional Court judges to the Senate for approval and picks central bankers.