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Czech lawmakers are due to elect a new president on Friday in a joint session of the two houses of Parliament. President Vaclav Klaus is seeking reelection in the face of a challenge from Czech-American economics professor Jan Svejnar. The vote starts at 10 am with speeches by both presidential candidates, but risks being derailed by a disagreement between the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies and the 81-strong Senate over whether the vote should be secret or public. The Senate, dominated by the ruling Civic Democrats, wants a secret ballot while the Chamber of Deputies favours a public vote. The Czech Constitution does not specify how the vote should be held. Failure to agree on this important aspect could see the presidential election postponed indefinitely until a solution is found.

In related news, President Klaus has reacted to the stand-off between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate by calling it a ‘ploy’ to prevent him from getting re-elected. He made the comments in an interview with Czech Radio on Thursday, adding that he saw a secret ballot as the only logical means of electing a president. Mr Klaus said that he couldn’t rule out that the election would be postponed, but said that he sincerely hoped that this would not be the case. He urged politicians to come to a swift agreement, warning that if they didn’t, the public may well lose patience. At the moment, the president is elected by politicians alone, though there is speculation that the next presidential election may be by direct vote.