CZECHIA: Petr Pavel, a former army general and senior NATO official won the Czech Republic’s presidential election on Saturday with a promise to keep the nation firmly rooted in the West and to mend societal divisions over political issues.
Pavel, a 61-year-old running for office for the first time, defeated wealthy former premier Andrej Babis, a dominating but divisive force in Czech politics for ten years, with 58.3% of the vote after all polling districts had reported final results.
Pavel, a social liberal who ran as an independent and received the support of the center-right government, addressed his fans and reporters at a Prague concert venue on Saturday as the results came in, sending a message of unity.
“I can see that values such as truth, dignity, respect, and humility have won in this election,” Pavel said.
“I am confident that the vast majority of us share these values; it is worthwhile for us to try to make them a part of our lives as well as bring them back to Prague Castle and our politics,” he added.
Pavel has also expressed his unwavering support for continuing to aid Ukraine in fighting against the Russian invasion.
Czech presidents don’t have a lot of regular tasks but they have influence over foreign policy, appoint the governors of the central bank and the prime minister of the government, and they can exert pressure on the government to enact new laws.
Pavel will take over in March, replacing the departing Milos Zeman, who supported Babis for the position and was a contentious figure during his two stints in power during the past ten years.
Zeman had sought deeper ties with both Beijing and Moscow up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; Pavel’s election will signal a significant change.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president of Ukraine, tweeted his congratulations to Pavel on his victory and expressed his desire for a close working relationship.
The turnout in the runoff election that was completed on Saturday, January 28th, was a record high of 70.2%. Although the conclusion of the poll was obvious on Saturday, the election’s outcome won’t be considered final until it is released in a legal journal on Tuesday.
Babis, a 68-year-old abrasive business tycoon who leads the largest opposition group in parliament, had targeted Pavel while he was running for government office.
He promised to encourage the government to do more to assist those who are struggling with rising prices in an effort to win over voters.
Pavel received congratulations from Babis and Prime Minister Petr Fiala for his victory. Due to their shared political views, Zuzana Caputova, the liberal president of Slovakia, visited Pavel’s office to offer her congratulations.
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