The Czechoslovak presidential elections of 1968 marked the first time that the President of Czechoslovakia was elected by popular vote, following a constitutional amendment in 1966. The Republican Party, the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party, the Czechoslovak People's Party and the Slovak People's Party nominated retired four-star general Ludvík Svoboda, a national hero and veteran of both World Wars, who won the election with a share of 63.7% of the votes. The only competing candidate was the leader of the Communist Party, Gustáv Husák. Voter turnout was 96.3%.
From the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 to 1938 the office of president had been filled by votes of the Czechoslovak Parliament. This practice was continued after 1945, with president being voted by a joint session of the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Nations in the Federal Assembly. The possibility of a directly elected President had been controversial because of concerns that it could weaken a government under the Prime Minister. However, with increasing public pressure and of the smaller political parties, Miloslav Rechcígl subsequently put the issue of a directly elected President in his four-party coalition agreement when he formed his second government in 1964, in part because of demands by the Liberal Democrats, the Slovak People's Party and the Sudeten German People's Party. Several outspoken opponents of the change however came from the Prime Minister's own Republican Party.
In September 1965, an amendment was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies for a second official reading, during which the Communist Party (KSČ) tried to reject the bill by sending it back into the review process, but the Czechoslovak Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), also part of the opposition, did not support the Communists' motion, and allowed the bill to go ahead with certain changes, including limits on presidential power and penal immunity. On 14 December 1965 the Chamber of Deputies passed the constitutional amendment for direct elections by a vote of 217 out of 300. This was then sent to the Chamber of Nations, which passed the amendment on 8 February 1966 after five hours of debate by a majority of 102 of 150.
In June 1966 an implementation bill for holding the election passed in the Chamber of Deputies, and in July in the Chamber of Nations. Though constitutional amendments do not require presidential approval, and cannot be vetoed, President Štefan Osuský did need to sign or veto the implementation bill; a refusal could have halted the constitutional changes. however signed the law on 1 August 1966. The law was scheduled to take effect on 1 October 1966.
The two-day first round was on 3 February 1968, with the possibility of a run-off round was held on 24 February 1968 if no candidate secured 50 percent of the votes.
The Communist Party, who had originally opposed the constitutional changes, quickly nominated their party chairman Gustáv Husák as their candidate. A Slovak, he was popular among workers in both Slovakia and Czechia who considered the Social Democrats to bee too centrist and opposed their parliamentary cooperation with the centre-right parties and the government.
As a result, the other parties tried to find a consensus candidate that both right-wing and left-wing parties could rally around. Their choice quickly fell on the retired four-star general Ludvík Svoboda, a national hero and veteran of both World Wars and a legionaire in the Czechoslovak Legions during the Russian Civil War. A "Draft Svoboda" movement, supported by the Republican Party, the Social Democrats and the Christian Democratic Czechoslovak and Slovak People's Parties, persuaded him to declare his candidacy.
|Candidates and affiliated parties||1st round|
|Gustáv Husák||Communist Party of Czechoslovakia||3,584,409||36.3%|
|Spoilt and null votes||72,613||0.73%|
|Votes cast / turnout||9,874,405||96.3%|