Former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš admits the defeat of Petr Pavel, who should have won more than 58 percent of the vote.
Former army general Petr Pavel won the race to become the new president of the Czech Republic, defeating billionaire Andrej Babiš in Saturday’s runoff.
The 61-year-old was set to win more than 58 percent of the vote with almost all polling stations counted. Babis, a former prime minister and polarizing figure in Czech politics, conceded defeat and congratulated Pavel.
Pavel, the former chairman of NATO’s military committee, will replace the controversial president Miloš Zeman.
“I would like to thank those who voted for me, as well as those who did not, but came to the elections, because they made it clear that they respect democracy and that they care about this country,” Pavel said after the results showed his victory.
“I see that values such as truth, dignity, respect and humility have won these elections,” he added.
Pavel showed his support for the country by providing military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid the war with Russia. He strongly supported the European Union and NATO and saw the future of the Czech Republic as connected with their membership.
Babiš (68) was supported by Zeman, with whom he shares Eurosceptic views and a tendency to use anti-immigrant rhetoric.
It was Babiš’s second major defeat in recent years, after his centrist ANO (DA) movement ended up in opposition following defeat in the 2021 general election.
The election went to a second round between Pavel and Babis because none of the eight initial candidates received an absolute majority in the first round of voting two weeks ago.
Babis and his family were the target of death threats, while Pavel was the victim of a hoax claiming he was dead, while disinformation weighed on the latest campaign.
“Our community was somewhat hurt by the presidential campaign, the multiple crises we faced and are facing, but also by the political style that prevailed here recently,” said Pavel.
“This has to change, and you helped me take the first step on the road to this change.”
Zeman was the first president elected by popular vote. His second and final five-year term expires in March. The deputies elected the previous two presidents, Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus.