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Czechs Vote for Assemblies

November 12, 2000

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ Voters in the Czech Republic chose among 7,000 candidates for assemblies in newly formed regions Sunday, the first such elections since the country parted with Slovakia in 1993.

In what is seen as a test for the ruling Social Democrats, regional assemblies are to be appointed for 13 of 14 newly formed districts. The new regional governments are to take effect Jan. 1.

Prague, the remaining district, elected its representatives in a 1998 vote. The next ballot will be in 2002.

A total of 7,889 candidates were competing for 675 posts. Also at stake Sunday were one-third of the 81 seats in the upper house of Parliament. Preliminary results were not expected before Monday.

``It’s the first time that I decided to take part in the election because this government will run things closer to home _ where I live,″ said Ivana Vesela, 40, a housewife who was getting ready to vote in Revnice, about 20 miles west of Prague.

The latest polls indicate the main opposition party of former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus holds a solid lead in nine of the 13 regions. A coalition of four center-right opposition parties leads the polls in three districts while the Communist Party has the advantage in the remaining district.

Polls discount any chance of success for the ruling Social Democrats.

It also seemed unlikely that any party would win an outright majority in any of the districts, a necessary condition to rule without forming coalitions under the proportional electoral system.

Twenty-seven seats are up for grabs in the Senate. Candidates need a 50 percent majority to win outright or must face a runoff between the two top finishers. Runoffs are to be Nov. 19.

Only about 20 percent turnout was expected Sunday in Senate races, with higher turnout expected for regional posts.

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