Former General Petr Pavel won the Czech Republic’s presidential election this Saturday, with a clear advantage over former prime minister and tycoon Andrej Babis, the “fifth fortune in the Czech Republic, according to Forbes”, who acknowledged his defeat and the winner has congratulated. With almost 90% of the votes counted, the candidate backed by the centre-right liberal government won 57% of the vote, compared to 43% for his rival. Turnout in this crucial second round was a record 69.8%.
Pavel, whose electoral slogan was “Restore law and order in the country,” was imposed without a full review in 10 of the central European country’s 14 regions. His rival, populist magnate and former President Andrei Babis, has waged an aggressive campaign, accusing Pavel of wanting to drag the country into war in the shadow of the Ukraine conflict. The controversial figure of Babis seems to have mobilized the voices against him, as he himself recognized in the latter part of the election campaign when he declared that the elections were a referendum on him.
As an independent candidate and despite his political inexperience, Pavel attracted voters with a direct and sober speech, which he managed to infuse into a conciliatory tone. He began his campaign on a Harley Davidson motorcycle and wore a flannel shirt, an image that led some media outlets to describe his arrival on the scene as a “flannel revolution,” a nod to the 1989 “velvet revolution” spearheaded by the Playwright Vaclav Havel.
The country’s Prime Minister Petr Fiala has congratulated Pavel on his victory and slammed Babis for the populism displayed in “one of the most disgusting campaigns in modern history” in the country, characterized by threats against both candidates and an atmosphere of fear was shaped around the Ukraine war. “Populism has been directly linked to extremism, which is very dangerous. It is good that there is a president who is supposed to unite different sectors and calm conflicts. I look forward to working with President Pavel,” Fiala said, according to the Denik news portal.
Babis has been accused of alleged subsidy fraud by the European Union, which accuses him of conflicts of interest as an entrepreneur and politician. Furthermore, in recent years, the investigation of the Pandora Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has revealed that Babis funded the 2009 purchase of properties in the south of France, including a castle, with funds from heavenly corporate prosecutors.
Pavel, 61, a former paratrooper and retired NATO soldier, will become the fourth president of the Czech Republic, which has elected its heads of state by popular vote since 2013. Between 1989 and 2008, the country’s president was elected by parliament. Pawel remains in office the controversial Social Democrat Milos Zeman, a political ally of Babis who will remain leader of the main opposition party despite his defeat on Saturday.
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