Czech Republic: Petr Pavel wins battle for Prague Castle

With over 58 percent of the vote, retired general Petr Pavel has secured a clear victory against former prime minister Andrej Babiš (42 percent) in the Czech presidential elections. Pavel stressed that with his election values such as truth, dignity and respect had won out. Can he heal the rifts in the country after the hard-fought campaign?

Open/close all quotes (CZ) /

He can reconcile the country

After his victory the newly elected head of state pledged to overcome the deep rifts in Czech society, writes with satisfaction:

“Petr Pavel is the first Czech president to make it his business from the start to seek dialogue with his opponent's voters. He repeated that he saw neither winners nor losers among the voters. This is an outstretched hand for the almost two and a half million citizens of the Czech Republic who voted for his rival Andrej Babiš. It is up to them to seize this opportunity.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Babiš voters remain

Tygodnik Powszechny is relieved, but believes it will take some effort to overcome the divisions in the country:

“The presidential election was a vote on the form of the Czech Republic: what kind of country it should be and what position it should take on the international stage. The clearly pro-democratic and pro-Western option won out over the populist one, but Babiš voters, whose fears he deliberately stoked and exploited, will not just disappear.”

Der Standard (AT) /

CP past won't catch up with Pavel

According to Der Standard, Pavel's openness about being a former member of the Communist Party also went down well:

“Both candidates who competed against each other in the run-off election laid the foundation for their - very different - careers before that, during the communist dictatorship. ... Pavel looks at his past with an open mind; he apologised for his former CP membership - saying it was a mistake from which he has learned. He cites Václav Havel, the dissident who became president in 1989, as a model for his leadership. And he enjoys the support of many former opponents of the regime and their sympathisers today.” (SK) /

Good news for Ukrainians too

For having someone with military experience in Prague Castle can only be an advantage:

“Especially in view of the current geopolitical situation and Russian aggression in Ukraine, it's better for the Czech Republic to have Petr Pavel as president. As Nato's former second in command, he will guarantee the Czech Republic will not take an adventurous and unrealistic solo approach to peacemaking against the will of the Ukrainians, but will act in solidarity with the alliance and support Ukraine until the last occupier is driven from its territory.”

European Pravda (UA) /

A signal for all Eastern Europe

The significance of Pavel's win extends beyond the Czech Republic, Ukrainska Pravda concurs:

“The elections in the Czech Republic were the first to put the war in Ukraine at the centre of the agenda, pushing most other matters into the background. ... The Czech example shows that pro-Russian populists can and should be defeated. And it is a signal to other countries in the region, especially Slovakia, where early parliamentary elections will be held in September and where the pro-Russian opposition is still leading the polls. The election result in the Czech Republic was a victory for the pro-European forces of the entire 'new' Europe, so also for Ukraine.”

Népszava (HU) /

The Czech Republic is not Hungary

Népszava sees populist strategies having different effects in different countries:

“The Czechs have clearly indicated that they've had enough of populism and politicians like Babiš, who campaigned on the basis of lies between the two rounds, claiming that if his opponent won he'd drag the Czech Republic into war. Now we can see the difference between Czech and Hungarian society. While in the Czech Republic the lies upset Babiš's supporters, in this country, before the parliamentary election last April, many believed that in Hungary, too, the guns would speak if the opposition won.”