Nerudova gains on Pavel and Babis in Czech presidential race

Danuse Nerudova, the former rector of Mendel University in Brno, is gaining ground on her rivals in the race for the Czech presidency, according to an Ipsos agency poll from November.

The opposition leader and populist billionaire Andrej Babis continues to lead with 29.7% of the vote, followed by the former general Petr Pavel with 25.3%, but Nerudova has risen to 25%.

Babis and Pavel’s support weakens

News poll results make it more likely that Pavel will be eliminated from the run-off or possibly that Babis will be knocked out, leaving for the second round two centrist politicians, both supported by the Czech government, IntelliNews reported.

Compared to earlier polls, Babis has a more significant lead over Pavel, but Nerudova seems to be gaining ground the most. 

Questions about Pavel’s communist past

The historian Petr Blazek said that Pavel is allegedly not disclosing everything about his prestige training in the final years of the communist regime. The historian asserts that he intended a career as a spy. Pavel’s past in the pre-1989 communist military has come up more and more in the media before the presidential election.

The robust anti-communist discourse, which continues to impact contemporary Czech politics significantly, may not outweigh Pavel’s distinguished post-1989 career. It includes commanding posts in several missions abroad, serving as the chief of the Czech army and the highest-ranking commander in NATO from former eastern Bloc countries.

Babis is accused of collaboration with communist-era secret police

Babis spent ten years working in Czechoslovakia’s foreign commerce, including assignments overseas. He is accused in the media of collaborating with the dreaded StB communist-era secret police, a charge he vigorously disputes despite the existence of archived records to the contrary. 

During ten years in national politics, Babis has also accrued several corruption scandals, including a significant mention in the Pandora Papers. There was also a court case where Babis is currently on trial for EU subsidy fraud just as he prepares for the pivotal weeks of his presidential campaign.

Nerudova: ‘I want to talk about our future, not their past’

Having two tainted candidates in the running could open the door for Nerudova, who earlier in November tweeted that she does not want to talk about “their [Babis and Pavel’s – ed.] past, but our future.”

Nerudova has also drawn similarities to the president of the Slovak Republic, Zuzana Caputova. So, she may attract Czech voters tired of political scandals and recent heated election campaigns.

Given the close poll numbers between the three front-runners, the ascension of the former rector of Mendel’s University has led some observers to wonder if Babis could even lose in the first round.

Read also: Controversial ex-communist and billionaire runs for presidency in Czech Republic

Pavel Ranocha, an analyst with Kantar polling stations, was quoted by as saying, “Pavel and Nerudova would have to steal from the candidates behind them,” and he added that Babis should be able to rely on a consistent ANO party electorate fluctuating around 25%.

On January 13 and 14, the first round of voting will take place.


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