Retired General Pavel Wins Czech Presidential Elections (Worthy News Radio)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
PRAGUE (Worthy News) – Petr Pavel, a retired general who once saved the lives of dozens of French soldiers, has won the runoff round of the Czech Republic’s presidential elections, official results showed Saturday. He faced Andrej Babis, a populist billionaire and former prime minister who the government didn’t back.
With most votes counted, Pavel received about 57 percent of the ballots cast. While mainly a ceremonial position, the president is commander in chief, can appoint governments, and influence foreign policies.
That’s why his supporters celebrated even before the official results were announced.
They realized that retired general Pavel, a decorated hero, was due to prevailing over a billionaire former prime minister Babis in the second and final round of the Czech Republic’s presidential election.
Pavel is a former paratrooper who received a French military award for saving the lives of more than 50 French soldiers during the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
He rose to lead the Czech general staff and was chairman of the Western NATO alliance military committee for three years before retiring in 2018.
The vote, held Friday and Saturday, came with Russia’s war in Ukraine looming.
Camera crews and other reporters surrounded the 61-year-old bearded made-for-tv Pavel. But Pavel tried to lower expectations of his expected presidency.
Casting his vote, Pavel made clear to journalists that he wanted to be “a dignified president” for the Czech Republic, a European Union and NATO member state of 10.5 million people. But, he said: “I won’t offer you a pie in the sky, but instead, I’ll describe reality as it is.”
NATO, EU WATCHING
Pavel has pledged to keep his central and eastern European nation firmly in the EU and NATO and continue full backing for wartorn Ukraine.
And he seeks the adoption of the shared euro currency, a step that has been halted for years. He also favors policies such as gay marriage amid a broader debate about that issue.
Pavel faced Andrej Babis, the former prime minister who has loomed large in the country’s business and political landscape for the past decade.
Though running as an independent politician, the center-right government supported Pavel’s candidacy over Babis.
The 68-year-old Babis has warm relations with Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban, who clashed with EU partners over the rule of law issues.
Babis, a populist, owns an empire spanning agribusiness and chemicals to media.
EU AUDIT REVELATIONS
Though he put his companies into trust when becoming prime minister in 2017, critics said Babis media outlets echoed nationalist and anti-refugee views.
And an audit by the European Commission, the EU’s executive, found that he influenced the allocation of EU subsidies to his businesses. He was, however, cleared of fraud with EU money by a Czech court.
Yet some saw the Czech Republic’s presidential election as a contest between Pavel’s perceived pro-Western democratic values and Babis-style populism.
General Pavel will replace controversial President Milos Zeman, who sought to stretch the power of the presidency since he was elected a decade ago. Instead, he appointed an unelected caretaker government, which failed to win parliamentary approval.
Zeman refused to nominate judges and professors who displeased him and blocked political appointments while cozying up to China and Russia.
Commentators said that the popularity of Pavel over Babis might suggest that the current climate in Europe is more favorable for war heroes than for politically-inclined oligarchs in what is often cited as one of Europe’s most atheistic countries.
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