Prague - With 99.99 of the votes counted, Milos Zeman has won the first round of the Czech Republic's first-ever direct presidential election with 24.2 percent of votes, against Karel Schwarzenberg who received only 23.4 percent of the vote.
As expected, neither of the two candidates has managed to gain more than 50 percent of the ballot, which means that they will face each other in a second round on January 25 and 26.
Jan Fischer, who was expected to qualify for the second round by opinion polls in the past months, came in third place with 16.35 percent of the vote.
In total, nine candidates qualified for the election. The other candidates secured the following shares of the vote: Jiri Dienstbier 16.1 percent, Vladimir Franz 6.8 percent, Zuzana Roithova 4.95 percent, Tatiana Fisherova 3.2 percent, Premysl Sobotka 2.5 percent and Jana Bobosikova 2.4 percent.
The voter turnout was 61.3 percent.
In the Czech Republic, the president is elected for a five-year term. The term of the current president, Vaclav Klaus, expires in early March.
Premysl Sobotka, who was nominated by the ruling Civic Democratic Party (ODS), received 2.5 percent of votes, which is considered a debacle by observers.
Man of Past versus Man of Present
It can be said that the electoral campaign for the second round of the election started immediately after the final results of the first one were announced.
First, Karel Schwarzenberg called Milos Zeman a "politician of the past." Milos Zeman served as prime minister between 1998 and 2002.
In response, Milos Zeman said: "Yes, Mr Schwarzenberg is a man of the present. As the second in charge of the Necas government, he has voted for a food price increase and the return of church property." Karel Schwarzeneberg is current foreign minister and chairman of the senior government TOP 09 party.
In November 2012, Milos Zeman described himself as an "ultra hawk" when it comes to Iran.