General Petr Pavel, the former head of NATO’s military committee and a supporter of military aid to Ukraine, was elected president of the Czech Republic on Saturday, beating out former prime minister Andrej Babis to take over the succession to Milos Zeman, who had maintained ambiguous links with Moscow.
Petr Pavel, a 61-year-old paratrooper and retired general, won the second round of the elections with 58.25% of the vote to Andrej Babis’s 41.75%, after 99.74% of the votes had been counted. votes.
“I would like to thank those who voted for me and also those who did not but went to the polls, because they made it clear that they honor democracy and care about the country,” said Petr Pavel. “I see that values such as truth, dignity, respect and humility have won in this election,” he added.
A campaign marked by a wave of misinformation
Petr Pavel, 61, will take over as head of state from Milos Zeman, a controversial politician, who had close ties to Moscow before turning around when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Turnout in the EU and NATO member country of 10.5 million people was 70.3% after an acrimonious campaign marked by controversy, including over Ukraine.
The campaign between the two rounds was bitter, with a wave of disinformation directed mainly at Petr Pavel and death threats directed at Andrej Babis and his family.
“Our community is somewhat hurt by the presidential campaign, by the multiple crises we have faced and are facing, but also by the political style that has prevailed here recently,” Petr Pavel said.
“This has to change, and you helped me take the first step on the path of this change,” he insisted.
Although his role is essentially ceremonial in the Czech Republic, the head of state appoints the government, elects the central bank governor and constitutional judges, and assumes supreme command of the armed forces.
a war hero
Petr Pavel will be the fourth president of the Czech Republic since it became an independent state after a peaceful break with Slovakia in 1993, four years after Czechoslovakia abandoned its totalitarian communist regime and slipped out of Moscow’s orbit.
His predecessors are Vaclav Havel, an anti-communist dissident playwright who led the country from 1993-2003, the economist Vaclav Klaus (2003-2013) and Milos Zeman, whose last term expires in March.
Petr Pavel is a hero of the war in the former Yugoslavia during which he notably helped free French soldiers. He later became Chief of the Czech General Staff and from 2015 to 2018 he served as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, the highest military officer position in the Atlantic Alliance.
The two rivals had been members of the Communist Party in the 1980s, when Czechoslovakia was under Moscow’s tutelage.
Defender of his country’s membership in NATO and the EU
But the former elite paratrooper with the neatly trimmed white beard and white hair has since become an ardent supporter of his country’s membership in the European Union and NATO.
“The Czech Republic is a sovereign state and a full member (of the EU and NATO, editor’s note), so we cannot sit quietly, nod our heads and criticize the results. We have to be more active and, at the same time, at the same time, constructive”.
He vowed to be an independent president, free from the influence of political parties, to continue to support aid to war-torn Ukraine and to support kyiv’s bid to join the EU.
“Of course, Ukraine must first meet all the conditions for becoming a member, such as progress in the fight against corruption. But I think you have the right to have the same opportunities that we had in the past,” she said.
Petr Pavel also supported same-sex marriages and the adoption of children by same-sex couples.
Source: BFM TV