The Czechs elect a new president on January 13-14

The Czech Republic will hold presidential elections on January 13 and 14. The leading candidates are former Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Rector of the University in Brno Danuse Nerudova and former Chief of the Czech Armed Forces General Staff, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and General Petr Pavel.

Danuse Nerudova, the front-runner in the polls for the Czech presidency last month, suddenly dropped in the race against the other two favorites, billionaire populist Andrej Babis, the leader of the opposition, and retired army general Petr Pavel as it closes to its final stage.

However, the three politicians are still neck-and-neck in the race. Polls indicate that Nerudova can receive 26.5%, Pavel 23.0%, and Andrej Babis 30.1%.

The second round will be held on January 27–28 if no candidate gets a clear majority of votes.

Babis’ election is unlikely to impact the Czech Republic’s foreign policy, particularly in light of Western unity in support of Ukraine and sanctions against Russia. The triumph of Nerudova may strengthen ties between the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

Before the presidential election, media coverage of Pavel’s time in the pre-1989 communist military increased. Pavel’s accomplished post-1989 career may not surpass the forceful anti-communist discourse, which still significantly impacts modern Czech politics. 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 spent ten years in international trade for Czechoslovakia, including missions abroad. Despite the existence of historical papers to the contrary, he is disputing the claim that he worked with the infamous StB secret police during the communist era.

Babis has accumulated corruption scandals throughout his ten years in national politics, including a notable 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 appeared to gain from her reputation as a young, liberal pro-Western politician who was untarnished by the communist past in November and December. Babis joined the Communist Party and cooperated with the secret police, according to records kept by the Slovak National Memory Institute (an allegation he denies). General Pavel has also come under increased public scrutiny for his intelligence training while in the Czechoslovak communist army.

Nerudova made a clear allusion to her two primary challengers when she declared at the beginning of her campaign in May that “the country cannot be controlled like a company, not like a military unit.” Our nation must be run like a family, she declared.

The Czech presidency is primarily ceremonial, but the president influences foreign policy and appoints essential figures like the central bank governor.

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