Retired general Petr Pavel wins runoff election to become Czech president, beating billionaire Andrej Babis.
Retired general Petr Pavel defeated populist billionaire Andrej Babis in a runoff vote to become the new president of the Czech Republic.
Pavel will succeed controversy-courting Milos Zeman in the largely ceremonial but prestigious post.
“My presidency will succeed only when we all succeed together," Pavel told a cheering crowd of his supporters.
With the ballots from 97% of almost 15,000 polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Pavel had 57.8% of the vote compared with 42.2% for Babis.
Pavel is a former chairman of NATO’s military committee, the alliance’s highest military body.
He fully endorsed the country’s military and humanitarian support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia and sees the Czech Republic’s future linked to membership in the European Union and NATO.
It’s the second major defeat for Babis, who is a former prime minister. His centrist ANO (YES) movement ended up in opposition after losing the 2021 general election.
Babis had been supported by Zeman, with whom he shares Eurosceptic views and the habit of using anti-migrant rhetoric. Pavel and Babis took part in the second round of voting because none of the eight initial candidates received an absolute majority in the first round two weeks ago.
Zeman was the first president elected by popular vote. His second and final five-year term expires in March. Lawmakers elected the previous two presidents, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus.