A Czech Television poll on January 21 showed that retired general Petr Pavel is leading in the race against billionaire ex-premier Andrej Babis in the presidential election.
Pavel is 15% ahead of Babis one week before the vote, which is scheduled for January 27-28.
Pavel narrowly defeated Babis in the first round of the Czech presidential election last weekend. Still, no one of the candidates received a majority of votes.
Pavel will defeat Babis in the second round – polls
According to the latest polls before the second round, Pavel will get 53% of the votes, compared to 38% for Babis, with 9% undecided.
The survey shows that the projected turnout in the vote next weekend could reach 84%, the highest ever in a presidential election in the history of the Czech Republic.
The post of the president in the Czech Republic does not have executive authority. Still, it does have considerable powers in appointing prime ministers, central bank chiefs, and constitutional court judges. The president also has limited influence in foreign policy.
Pavel is more pro-Western than departing president Zeman
Pavel, a former general who served in a key NATO military role, is more pro-Western than departing president Milos Zeman. He supports the West’s sanctions policy towards Russia and advocates for adopting the euro.
Babis, 68 years old, established a large business and media empire, now held in trust funds. He shares Zeman’s warm ties with Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who voices against sanctions and has clashed with the EU over the rule of law.
Views on the Russo-Ukrainian war
Petr Pavel advocates for further military help to Ukraine. The retired general 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 of the war. He stated that the Czech Republic should not send weapons to Ukraine and aid refugees.
Pavel, who supports the center-right government, has accused Babis of inciting fear.
Babis is accused of collaboration with communist-era secret police
Some voters have also expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that both first-round victors were members of the Communist Party previous to the Communist Party’s fall from power in 1989.
Babis worked in foreign trade and was registered as a secret police informant during the Communist era, which he denies. Pavel began his military career in the 1980s, enrolling in a military intelligence training course he finished when communism fell.
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.