Retired General Petr Pavel Defeats Billionaire Andrei Babis to Become New Czech President

PRAGUE—Former army general Petr Pavel became the new president of the Czech Republic after defeating populist billionaire Andrei Babis in Saturday’s run-off election.

Pavel, 61, will replace Milos Zeman in a largely ceremonial but prestigious post. His election is expected to solidify the country’s Western orientation following Zeman’s ten-year tenure.

In all the votes tallied by the Czech Statistical Office, Pavel received 58.3% of the votes and Babis 42.7%. His voter turnout was just over 70%, the highest ever for a presidential election.

“We can look at many issues differently, but that doesn’t mean we’re enemies.” We have to learn how to communicate with each other. ”

Babis concedes defeat and congratulates Pavel on his victory. He called on his supporters to “accept that I have lost, accept that we have a new president.”

Pavel, who ran as an independent, is the former chairman of NATO’s Military Commission, the alliance’s highest military organ. He fully supported the military and humanitarian assistance of the Czech Republic in Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression and stressed the importance of its membership in the European Union and NATO.

The president elects a prime minister after a general election, which is one of the key responsibilities of the president’s office, and appoints members of the central bank. The office owner also elects the judges of the Constitutional Court with the approval of the Senate of Congress.

Otherwise, the Czech Republic is run by a government elected and led by a prime minister, so the president has little executive power.

Slovak President Zuzana Captova, who beat the established politicians in the 2019 presidential election, joined Pavel on the stage in Prague on Saturday to congratulate him in front of his supporters.

Pavel said he was planning his first overseas trip as president, visiting Slovakia and Ukraine. He also said Poland will assure President Andrzej Duda that his country fully respects his NATO commitments and the alliance’s collective defense principles.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated Pavel in a tweet written in Czech, adding that he looked forward to close cooperation between the two countries.