Milos Zeman wins Czech presidency


Czech new-elected President Milos Zeman (C) speaks during a press conference on January 26, 2013 in Prague, after the result of the second round of the Presidential elections. Czechs chose outspoken veteran leftist Milos Zeman, an ex-premier, as their new president in the runoff of the EU republic's first direct election.


Michal Cizek

The Czech Republic today elected leftist former prime minister Milos Zeman president in the country's first election by direct popular vote, according to BBC News.

Last year's constitutional amendment put an end to presidential appointments by parliament and established a popular vote -- making way for what Buzzfeed proclaimed The Most Interesting Election In The World. 

Czech voters, traditionally more reserved when it comes to political participation, "turned out in droves" despite freezing weather today, BBC said

Part of that can certainly be attributed to the colorful cast of characters in the running (bonus points for this heavily tattooed candidate). Chain-smoking Zeman, whom BBC said won 55% of the vote, was challenged by titled prince and political heavyweight Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. The prince narrowly lost, winning about 45% of the vote despite an aggressive campaign and edgy Mohawk look

This is actually Zeman's second attempt to win office, according BBC's Prague correspondent Rob Cameron. He ran for office 10 years ago but lacked sufficient party support. Prior to the 1968 Soviet invasion of then-Czechoslovakia, Reuters said Zeman was a member of the Communist Party -- a party that survived the country's transition to democratic rule in fact still has significant political clout

Zeman will take over in March from Vaclav Klaus, who has held the position for the last decade. Reuters said Zeman is expected to "take the Czechs closer to the European mainstream" as opposed to Klaus, who notoriously critical of the bloc. 

Zeman served as a prime minister from 1998-2002 in a coalition deal with Klaus, reported Reuters.