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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Elections: Czech Republic: Babis and Pavel in runoff election for president

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Who follows Milos Zeman, who liked to polarize as Czech president? In the run-off election in two weeks, two fundamentally different candidates will meet.

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The Czech Republic is facing an exciting runoff election for the presidency: the populist ex-head of government Andrej Babis and the former NATO general Petr Pavel are moving into another round of voting in two weeks. Both were almost level after the first ballot on Friday and Saturday after counting all constituencies.

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Pavel, who campaigned for “order and calm”, scored 35.4 percent of the vote, slightly better than Babis. The billionaire came to 35 percent, according to data from the CSU statistics agency. For a win in the first round, one of the candidates would have had to achieve an absolute majority.

The only woman among the eight applicants, economics professor Danuse Nerudova, came in third with 13.9 percent. 68.2 percent of the 8.3 million eligible voters cast their votes.

Babis and Pavel are completely different

Babis, who headed the government from 2017 to the end of 2021, described his performance as “fantastic” in an initial reaction. At the same time, the Slovak-born accused his opponents of wanting to connect him with the former Soviet secret service, the KGB. Pavel expects a tough election campaign before the play-off on January 27 and 28: Babis doesn’t know how to play without fouls, the 61-year-old told his campaign team.

Babis presented himself as an advocate for those suffering from high inflation and energy prices. The 68-year-old was acquitted just a few days ago in a trial about EU subsidies. Pavel referred to his experience as a former chairman of the NATO military committee – also against the background of the Russian war against Ukraine.

In the Czech Republic, the president has predominantly representative tasks, but is regarded as an influential opinion leader. In addition, he can refer laws back to parliament once, appoints the constitutional judges and is the supreme commander of the armed forces. President Milos Zeman, who left office at the beginning of March, repeatedly provoked controversial statements about Muslims and migrants.

Pavel supports western course in Ukraine war

Media mogul Babis has always gotten on well with Zeman. Dr himself has been suspected for years of being in a constant conflict of interests as an entrepreneur and politician. Babis’ populist movement ANO has become a gathering place for all those who are dissatisfied with the liberal-conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala. The party has requested a vote of no confidence in Parliament next Tuesday.

Unlike Babis, the General a. D. Pavel clearly advocated further arms deliveries to Ukraine. “Choose a hero” was one of his campaign slogans. In January 1993, during the Yugoslav war, Pavel led a blue helmet commando that rescued more than 50 French UN soldiers from a dangerous position between enemy lines.

In 2015, the former chief of staff became the first candidate from a former Eastern Bloc country to be appointed chairman of the NATO military committee. He has been officially out of service since 2018. On Saturday, shortly before the results were announced, Pavel flew a lap in a light aircraft over the Elbe in the north-west of the Czech Republic. He said: “You have to keep an overview.”

Source: Stern

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