Wednesday, February 1, 2023

New Czech President

The results are in and Czechland is getting a new president.  Petr Pavel will replace incumbent president Miloš Zeman.  When he takes office in March he will be country's fourth president.

Here's what's gone over here.  Following the election in 2021,  Petr Fiala became prime minister and Andrej Babiš was out of a job.  For some reason he decided to run for president.

The first round of presidential elections took place on 13-14 January.  General Pavel ran as an independent candidate and won the first round of elections with 35,4% of the vote.  Babiš came in second with 34,99%.

Most of the other candidates put their support behind Pavel and he won the second round of voting with 58,33%.  He won by more than a million votes.  There was just over 70% voter turnout which was the highest turnout in any national election since 1998.   

President-elect Pavel enlisted in the Czechoslovak People's Army after graduating high school in 1983.  Following the Velvet Divorce, he served in the Czech Army and from 2012 to 2015 he was the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces. From 2015 to 2018 he was the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee; the first military officer from the former Warsaw Pact to hold the position.

While he doesn't have any political experience he does have a master's degree in international relations from King's College London and speaks English, French, and Russian. 

Pavel is a social progressive who supports gay marriage, euthanasia, and rejects the death penalty.  He is pro-Western, pro-EU, pro- NATO, and he supports Ukraine.  He was endorsed by Spolu, the centre-right governing alliance.

Following the Velvet Revolution, people chanted "Havel na Hrad" ("Havel to the Castle") for Václav Havel to become president (because Prague Castle is the official office of the president).

During the campaign, it became "Pavel na Hrad".

Babíš was endorsed by outgoing president Zeman and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia.  Babiš tried to portray Pavel as a warmonger.  Babiš also caused additional controversy when he said that if Poland was attacked by Russia, then he would not comply with NATO's article 5, and would not go to Poland's defence.

Here's a short video I found on YouTube about the election.

©Al Jazeera

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