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The pro-western candidate Jiri Drahos in the election of Czech President trails closely behind the Russian-friendly incumbent Milos Zeman after the first round of voting.
The vote is viewed as as referendum on 73-year-old Zeman who has been in office since 2013.
Zeman - Germany - Decision - Migrants - Towards
Zeman has criticised Germany's decision to accept migrants and is hostile towards immigration from Muslim countries.
Many Czech people support Zeman's views on immigration but are held back by his inclination toward far-right groups and his warm relations with China and Russia.
Chunk - Electorate - Candidates - Drahos - Opponent
A sizeable chunk of the electorate are now favouring pro-western candidates, including 68-year-old academic Drahos, who will be a formidable opponent in the second round vote in two weeks, nearly complete results showed.
With votes from 98.9 percent of districts counted, Zeman led the race with 38.6 per cent of votes, while Drahos had won 26.6 per cent.
Run-off - Balance - Power - Round
That means a run-off needs to be held, and the balance of power may be closer than the first round showed.
Four other candidates who ended between the third and sixth place and among them won 32.5 percent.
Drahos - Round - Place - January
They have all endorsed western-favourite Drahos for the second round, which takes place on January 26-27.
Drahos told supporters 'This looks hopeful' at the Prague theatre after most results had come in. He added ' By far the toughest game now awaits against Milos Zeman and his advisers... Come to vote, come to vote, come to vote.'
Presidents - Executive - Powers - Zeman - Predecessors
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.
Zeman - Debates - Round - Drahos - Challenge
Zeman, previously shunned public debates ahead of the first round, but has now accepted Drahos' challenge to a television duel and said he hoped voters could make up their...
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