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A presidential election planned for this Friday could be postponed due to a dispute over how the bicameral vote should be held. A decision by the Chamber of Deputies procedural committee on Wednesday to back a public vote brings the lower house into conflict with the Senate, where the majority is in favour of a secret vote. Senate chairman Přemysl Sobotka said if agreement is not reached during talks between representatives of both houses on Thursday then Friday’s joint session of Parliament could be suspended while a solution to the stalemate is sought. Mr Sobotka said he would not describe the situation as a constitutional crisis, but instability which required political negotiation.

A hastily arranged meeting of the governing coalition failed to make any headway over the issue on Wednesday. The coalition’s biggest party the Civic Democrats – who control the Senate – are in favour of a secret vote. But their partners the Greens and the Christian Democrats, along with the opposition Social Democrats and at least some Communist legislators, back a public vote.

The incumbent Václav Klaus is set to face Jan Švejnar in Friday’s vote, with Mr Klaus regarded by many pundits as the favourite. An opinion poll by the CVVM agency released on Wednesday suggests that both presidential candidates have equal public support of 42 percent. However, Mr Klaus may have more opponents than Mr Švejnar: 22 percent of respondents said they were decidedly against the incumbent, compared to 16 percent strongly opposed to the challenger.