After the first ballot, the Czech Republic has to decide between ex-Prime Minister Babiš and ex-General Pavel as the new president. The runoff election is in two weeks.
PRAGUE taz | The exciting run-off election is coming up in just under two weeks, after the first round of the Czech presidential elections on January 13th and 14th was a successful starter with a voting difference of almost 0.4 percent. The entrepreneur, ex-Prime Minister (2017 to 2021) and now presidential candidate Andrei Babis and former NATO general Petr Pavel were almost level on the first ballot: 35 percent and 35.4 percent. The turnout of 68 percent is considered the second highest in the political history of the Czech Republic.
The 68-year-old oligarch Babiš, originally from Slovakia, has shaped political events in the Czech Republic since 2013. These presidential elections are also determined by Babiš. His reaction to the election result at the weekend suggests a spicy second course. Pavel even starts the race with a slight lead.
In the first ballot, the ex-head of government and the former NATO general were tied
No sooner was the final election result known than Pavel’s opponents were praising the general: the 61-year-old career soldier, former chief of the Czech General Staff and NATO Military Committee, holder of the French Military Cross of Merit, at least looks smart enough to be featured on stamps and the obligatory presidential portraits in Czech classrooms to make a good picture.
On January 27th and 28th, the ex-prime minister and ex-general will meet in the runoff election and it will be decided who will succeed the current one President Milos Zeman will. Zeman won the 2013 presidential election and was re-elected in 2018.
Since 2012, the Czech president has been directly elected
The presidential elections in the Czech Republic are about far more than a political office. According to the constitution, its role is not sui generis, like that of the German Federal President. However, it is not decisive either, like that of the French or US heads of state. In the Czech Republic, the president is part of the executive branch.
Until 2012 he was elected by the members of both chambers of the Czech Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. His powers included appointing the government, the country’s judges, the governor of the central bank and the Supreme Control Board.
Ever since the Czech Republic introduced direct election of the head of state in 2012, Prague’s Hradčany, the hilltop seat of the Czech President, has loomed even more like an alternative power over the Straka Academy, where the government of the Czech Republic sits in the so-called Lesser Town of Prague, on the left bank of the Vltava.
Even Václav Havel, a Czech idol, used his powers during his presidency between 1989 and 2003 to torpedo laws or the appointment of ministers. According to the constitution, the president can reserve the right to appoint ministers, take part in government meetings and constructively question the government.
Ever since Babiš jumped onto the political stage, just over ten years ago with the founding of his populist one-man movement ANO in 2011, he has been dividing Czech society. Its electoral potential lies in the villages and small towns. Exactly one week before the first round of voting, he was accused of fraud in connection with EU funds acquitted in the amount of the equivalent of two million euros.
Co-favourite Danuše Nerudová was eliminated in the first ballot with only 13.9 percent. Everyone expects the campaign to get really dirty by the end of January.