Czech Republic elects pro-Ukraine ex-general as president


Retired general Petr Pavel was declared the winner this Saturday (28) of the presidential elections in the Czech Republic. The ex-soldier’s campaign was marked by promises of support for NATO, the US-led military alliance, and for Ukraine, a country that was invaded and has been at war with Russia for 11 months.

Pavel, 61, who ran for office for the first time, registered 57.4% of the votes with 93% of the ballots counted. He defeated tycoon and former prime minister Andrej Babis, who even suggested that his opponent could drag the country into the conflict in Eastern Europe by sending weapons and tanks to Kiev.

Although they have essentially ceremonial roles, presidents of the Czech Republic tend to have an active voice in foreign policy and are considered to be powerful opinion makers who can pressure the government and congressmen to approve or reject public policies.

The Czech president is still responsible for appointing the prime minister, head of the central bank and constitutional judges. He is also the head of the Armed Forces —Pavel has not yet made it clear what the Czech Republic’s role will be in the Ukrainian War.

In a speech after confirming the victory, the president-elect asked for unity. “Values ​​like truth, dignity, respect and humility won out,” said Pavel in the country’s capital, Prague. “I am convinced that these values ​​will be shared by the vast majority of us. It is worth trying to make them part of our lives and also to return them to our politics.”

The retired general declares himself independent and, during the campaign, garnered the support of center-right parties. He is due to take office in March, when he will replace Milos Zema, who has pro-Russian rhetoric and advocates closer Czech ties with China.

In addition to defending greater harmony between the Czech Republic and NATO, Pavel said he was in favor of the adoption of the euro in the Czech Republic, which would increase economic integration with the European Union. He has also championed progressive causes like the right to LGBTQIA+ marriage.

A career soldier, Pavel was decorated for his peacekeeping efforts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Most recently, he was chairman of NATO’s military committee in the Czech Republic for three years before retiring in 2018.

Pavel will be the fourth Czech president since the country broke away from Slovakia in 1993. Babis and the current prime minister, Petr Fiala, congratulated the former soldier on his victory.

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