Petr Pavel wins the first round of Czech presidential elections

Petr Pavel, a retired general, won in the first round of the presidential elections in the Czech Republic. Former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš comes second. The Czechs made their choice in the first round, which took place on January 13 and 14. With results that were both expected and unexpected.

In the second round, the two candidates they considered most favored from the start of the campaign passed: General Petr Pavel and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, leader of the main opposition ANO (YES in English) party. 

Pabel and Babiš go to the second round

Still, the results for both leaders were significantly higher than sociologists had predicted, with less than half a percentage point between them, making the election even more exciting. Meanwhile, first-round turnout in the Czech Republic reached record levels — around 67 percent.

One of the key contenders for the post, Danuše Nerudova, who did not make it to the second round and received almost 14%, has already declared her support for Pavel for his victory over Babis.

The second round of the election will be held from Friday, January 27, to Saturday, January 28.

Candidates’ views

The fact that Andrej Babiš will run for the title was more than a year ago since his ANO movement lost the parliamentary elections. The former PM remained silent for a long time, although regular trips to the regions began in the spring due to work in the lower palace. 

He finally announced his candidacy in late October, saying he felt the need to distance himself from the government of Petr Fiala. “When I see how the government does not work, how it does not support the people, it is largely inactive, I decided to go for it,” Babis said. Ex-president Milos Zeman publicly supported them.

The candidacy of retired general Petr Pavel was also speculated for several years, especially after he actively participated in the fight against the pandemic. Last year, he surrounded himself with the team with which he officially started the campaign. According to him, the Czech Republic needs a calm and clear president. 

Pavel said that he is running so that the values represented by his rival Andrej Babiš do not win. “This primarily means populism, lies, and, quite often, the adaptation of rules. This is not what I would like to wish for the Czech Republic.” It is worth mentioning that Pavel has won the 1st round among Czech citizens abroad.

Russo-Ukrainian War

Petr Pavel is often asked about the current situation in Ukraine. He admitted that he was surprised by a direct military clash between the two countries. He stated that under specific circumstances, he would also promote declaring a no-fly zone or sending NATO troops to Ukraine to protect humanitarian corridors.

Andrej Babiš has been criticizing Fiala’s government from the beginning. He stated that the Czech Republic should not send weapons to Ukraine and aid refugees. Babiš said the government should seek peace, and he discussed the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron a few days before the elections. 

“He is one of the few European politicians who promote peace negotiations. Nobody wants war. I agree that the world’s biggest players should sit at the same table, just as they were able to sit at the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War in 2018, which took place long after the occupation of Crimea.”

Energy crisis

According to Pavel, the government should coordinate its actions with the National Bank of the Czech Republic to reduce inflation again. “Low and stable inflation is primarily the task of the central bank, which is independent, but it is appropriate if both components of the state’s economic policy, i.e., monetary and fiscal policy, proceed in harmony.” He stated that the most important thing is for the government to try consolidating state finances and reducing the budget deficit.

 In response to rising inflation, the ANO movement presented a 12-point “anti-cost” plan in April. This is a combination of increasing social benefits, including pensions above the statutory assessment, capping fuel and food prices, or reducing VAT on electricity, gas, and heating to zero. Its implementation would cost the state treasury 250 billion crowns, which, according to economists, would, on the contrary, support inflation.

Second round on 27-28 January

As mentioned, the second round will be held on 27 and 28 January. Liberal-minded Petr Pavel has more chances over populist billionaire Andrej Babiš. Lately, Babiš gained more votes after fraud allegations, but Pavel could get more from Babiš’s opponents. The President’s title has no executive power. Still, his voice is crucial in appointing the Prime Minister and the Head of The Constitutional Court.

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