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Czechs choosing president by popular vote for the 1st time; 9 candidates running

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    Presidential candidate Jan Fischer looks on prior to a television debate in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. Czech Republic holds the first round of the Presidential election on Jan. 11-12th, 2013. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)The Associated Press

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    Presidential candidates, left to right, Zuzana Roithova, Jan Fischer, Jana Bobosikova, Tatana Fischerova, Premysl Sobotka, Milos Zeman, Vladimir Franz, Jiri Dientsbier and Karel Schwarzenberg attend a television debate in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. The Czech Republic holds the first round of the Presidential election on Jan. 11-12th, 2013. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)The Associated Press

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    Presidential candidates Vladimir Franz, center, Milos Zeman, right, and Premysl Sobotka, left, talk prior their television debate in Prague, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013. The Czech Republic holds the first round of the Presidential election on Jan. 11-12th, 2013. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)The Associated Press

Czechs are electing the country's president in a direct popular vote for the first time, choosing from nine candidates to replace Euro-skeptic Vaclav Klaus.

Former prime ministers, the current foreign minister, lawmakers current and former, an actress and an artist whose body is tattooed all over are among those who are running for the largely ceremonial post.

Former leftist Premier Milos Zeman and Jan Fischer, who led a caretaker government in 2009-10, are the favorites in the two-day ballot that started Friday, according to polls.

If no candidate achieves a majority — a likely scenario — the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff in two weeks' time.

Klaus's second and final five-year term in office expires March 7.