Ex-NATO General Petr Pavel Elected President of the Czech Republic
With 100 percent of polling stations now reporting, the results of the 2023 Czech presidential election are official. Retired NATO general Petr Pavel has defeated opponent Andrej Babiš with 58.32 percent of the vote and will become the Czech Republic’s next president. Pavel will assume office on March 8, replacing outgoing president Miloš Zeman.
Pavel will become just the fourth Czech president in the country’s 30-year history. Past presidents Václav Havel, Václav Klaus, and Miloš Zeman all served the two-term maximum for a total of ten years each. Czech presidential elections are held every five years, with a direct election by the people since 2013.
Support for Pavel was strongest in Prague, where he received a decisive 76 percent of the vote. Pavel also won the Czech Republic’s Central Bohemia, Karlovy Vary, Liberec, Pilsen, Pardubice, Vysočina, Zlín, South Bohemia, Hradec Králové, Olomouc and South Moravia regions.
Babiš, who received 41.67 percent of the vote overall, was the favored candidate in the Czech Republic’s Karlovy Vary, Ústí, and Moravian-Silesian regions, though he did not receive more the 55 percent of the vote in any of these regions.
A retired army general, Pavel served as the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army from 2012 to 2015, and the Chair of the NATO Military Committee from 2015 to 2018.
The president-elect became a lecturer and consultant after retiring from the army in 2018, and launched the Spolu silnější (Stronger Together) initiative in 2020 to aid volunteers in the early days of the pandemic and help prepare the country for future crises.
Pavel voted in the country’s two-day runoff election yesterday. After polls closed at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, he went to Forum Karlín in Prague 8 with his wife to watch the results come in and celebrate a potential victory.
“I slept well. In the morning we enjoyed some quiet time with our son, then we got ready and headed here. I feel very well,” he told reporters upon his arrival.
During the first round of the Czech Republic’s presidential election two weeks ago, Pavel led a field of ten candidates with 35.4 percent of the vote, just slightly ahead of Babiš with 35 percent.
The two leading candidates advanced to this weekend’s runoff, with the numbers suggesting that among the 30 percent of Czechs who voted for other candidates, Pavel gained the vast majority of support. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a hot-button topic in this year’s election, with opponent Andrej Babiš claiming that the former NATO general could lead the country into a war with Russia.
Following the pair’s debate earlier this week, Babiš walked back statements about not defending Poland in the event of a hypothetical Russian invasion. Media reminded the former Prime Minister about the Czech Republic’s obligations as a member of NATO, something that Pavel is well-acquainted with.