with the election of Petr Pavel, the return of a pro-European moderate to the country’s presidency
Shortly after the polls closed in the Czech Republic on Saturday, January 28, the results confirmed the victory that the polls had predicted: retired soldier Petr Pavel won by more than 58%. On stage in front of his supporters, the new president with the salmon tie immediately showed himself to be a unifier, not hesitating to reach out to the voters of his rival, the former populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis: “I know that many are disappointed because their candidate did not win. But I don’t see a winning or losing electorate in this country. Values like truth, dignity, respect and humility prevailed. I am ready to return these values to the Château [siège de la présidence] and our Republic. »
Petr Pavel, who claims a Czech Republic anchored in the European Union and in NATO, as well as support for Ukraine at war, will replace the pro-Russian and eurosceptic Milos Zeman. His predecessor had not hesitated in the past to display his sympathy for Russia or China; he had also been on the verge of exceeding his duties within the presidency. “Petr Pavel could be an erased president, which would be a good thing, it would bring him closer to the role of the president as assigned by the Constitution”, concludes Tomas Kostelecky, researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Czech parliamentary democracy assigns the president essentially ceremonial functions – even if he is the commander-in-chief and can veto legislation.
The direct voting method nevertheless makes the presidential election the election of choice for the Czechs. Outside Petr Pavel’s headquarters on Saturday, dozens of voters came to greet the man with the white beard collar. “I voted for Petr Pavel for his honesty and courtesy. I would have been ashamed to be Czech if Mr. Babis had won,” explains Sarka Vlkova, 44, who had voted for the only candidate in the running, the independent Danuse Nerudova, during the first round, on January 13 and 14. “It is a symbolic moment, which could well ease the divisions within society and restore a climate of dialogue and tolerance, as in the time of Vaclav Havel”, says Michael Zantovsky, director of the Vaclav-Havel library, dedicated to the former dissident and president of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003.
Andrej Babis immediately congratulated his rival, calling on his voters to recognize his own defeat. Then the billionaire hastened to play his usual anti-system card: “The opponent was very strong. It was not just the five ruling parties but also the media. » During his campaign, the businessman had willingly accused his opponent of being the candidate ” of the government “.
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