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 Wednesday, 15 January, 2003, 23:22 GMT
Deadlock in Czech presidential race
Vaclav Havel surrounded by deputies
Havel was given a standing ovation in parliament
The Czech parliament has failed to choose a successor to President Vaclav Havel after no candidate managed to secure enough votes in any of the three rounds of voting.

The race was whittled down to two men - Christian Democrat Petr Pithart and right-wing former prime minister Vaclav Klaus - when two other candidates were eliminated in the first round.

Vaclav Klaus
Vaclav Klaus: Controversial ex-prime minister
But neither managed to win more than 50% of the votes in either the second or third round of voting.

The deadlock - unprecedented in Czech politics - means that the whole process will have to be repeated from the start - most likely in the next few weeks.

Mr Havel - a former jailed dissident who became president after the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989 - must step down in February, having already served two terms.

New candidates

Mr Klaus hailed his success in winning the most votes of any of the candidates on Wednesday and said he would be continuing his challenge in the next stage of voting.

Upper chamber: Klaus 31, Pithart 35
Lower chamber: Klaus 92, Pithart 20
"I think that the results are definitely for me very positive... I think it's for me a good challenge to go on, to continue, because the support was visibly higher than for any other candidate," he told the BBC.

Upper chamber: Klaus 32, Pithart 43
Lower chamber: Klaus 77, Pithart 46

It is not clear whether Mr Pithart will also represent the Christian Democrats in the next stage.

Upper chamber: Klaus 33, Pithart 40
Lower chamber: Klaus 80, Pithart 44
Total votes cast 281: Klaus 113, Pithart 84, Spoilt ballots 84

The new election opens the way for new candidates to enter the fray.

The former Social Democrat Prime Minister Milos Zeman - a critic of current Social Democrat Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla - has been widely tipped to throw his hat into the ring, possibly splitting his party.


Deputies hope to find a replacement for Mr Havel before his mandate runs out on 2 February.

Mr Havel, 66, told parliament in his farewell address before the vote that he had done his best in his office.

"Perhaps I managed well in some cases, perhaps I ruined something," he said. "In any way, my task is not to assess my work. This is and will be a matter for the public, politicians, journalists and, of course, political scientists and historians."

Mr Havel retained huge international standing after leading the country almost seamlessly into its post-communist era, but at home his popularity has waned over the years.

He has also been beset by serious health problems.

Contrasting characters

In the first two rounds of Wednesday, neither Mr Klaus nor Mr Pithart got a majority in each house - a requirement in the first stages of the election - so a third round was held.

But with 84 deputies choosing to vote for neither candidate, they were both deprived the 50% required.

Though Mr Klaus still has many fervent supporters, he is a controversial figure and has made many enemies in his 13 years in politics - among them Mr Zeman and Mr Havel.

As prime minister he presided over the privatisation of much of Czech industry following the end of communism and led the split from Slovakia in the face of opposition from Mr Havel.

Mr Pithart, who is Mr Havel's preferred successor, has his roots in the dissident movement of the 1970s, but is seen by critics as being too intellectual and rather indecisive and bland.

Miroslav Krizenecky, standing for the communists, and Jaroslav Bures, the candidate for the ruling Social Democrats, were knocked out in the first round.

  The BBC's Rob Cameron
"It ended in failure"
See also:

15 Jan 03 | Media reports
14 Jan 03 | Europe
04 Jun 02 | Europe
20 Oct 02 | Country profiles
20 Oct 02 | Country profiles
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