Retired former army general Petr Pavel was elected president of the Czech Republic: he defeated Andrej Babis, a former prime minister repeatedly accused of corruption. Pavel is 62 years old, has had a long career within NATO and has positions close to the European Union: he will replace President Milos Zeman, who had fostered close ties with Russia before the invasion of Ukraine but in the recent months has expressed its support for the government of Volodymyr Zelensky. Zeman supported Pavel’s opponent Babis, who currently heads the largest opposition party in the Czech parliament.
In the Czech Republic, the president of the republic has a mainly ceremonial role, but he also has to appoint the government, select the governor of the central bank and the constitutional judges, and in the event of an invasion he serves as commander of the armed forces.
Babis, who is a billionaire entrepreneur, has waged a very aggressive campaign against Pavel, accusing him of being a warmonger and calling Pavel’s pro-Ukraine and pro-Ukraine positions reckless and irresponsible.
The former prime minister had also alluded to the possibility of refusing to join one of the fundamental principles of NATO, the military alliance that includes part of Western countries and also the Czech Republic: that of the mutual defense mechanism in the event of an expected attack by article 5 of the founding treaty of the alliance. During a televised debate, he argued that he would not send soldiers to defend Poland or other European countries in case they were attacked.
For his part, Pavel ran as an independent and pragmatic candidate, saying he “doesn’t want to give the country false hopes, but rather to describe the reality as it is”. During the electoral campaign he presented Babis as a threat to the stability of democracy in the Czech Republic, saying that «the danger is that (if Babis wins) not only will we slide towards populism but we will risk deviating from the path we have followed for the last 30 years: democratic, western and pro-European”.
Pavel promised to keep the country firmly within both the European Union and NATO. He also said he was in favor of adopting the euro by the Czech Republic, sending continued aid and support to Ukraine, and marriage for same-sex couples.
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