Presidential Election: Babis and Pavel Clash Over War and Economy In Debate On Czech Television
The candidates clashed over the economy and the war in Ukraine. Photo credit: Vlada.cz/ martin strachon via Wikimedia commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Prague, Jan 23 (CTK) – The two remaining presidential candidates, former senior army and NATO official Petr Pavel and former prime minister Andrej Babis, had a sharp verbal exchange in the presidential debate yesterday on Czech Television (CT).
Babis said Pavel had spoken about war all of his life and did not believe in peace. Pavel replied that he sought peace and that Babis kept telling “downright lies.”
Babis at first refused to participate in the CT debate, but changed his mind at the last moment. He said he had changed his mind after yesterday’s divine service for the homeland in the St Vitus Cathedral, which both candidates had attended.
“We were in the divine service today given by Prague Archbishop Jan Graubner. He called us, as Jesus said, to start thinking differently,” Babis said.
“He was speaking about truth, love and justice. So I started thinking differently, I have changed my mind,” Babis said.
One of the questions in the debate asked whether the Czech Republic should send troops to an open conflict in the hypothetical case that Poland or the Baltic countries were attacked.
Babis said he would not.
“Well, certainly no. I want peace, I do not want war. I absolutely would not send our children and the children of our women to a war,” Babis said.
He said the question was purely theoretical and stressed that the main thing was to prevent a war.
Pavel, a former chief of staff and chairman of the NATO Military Committee, highlighted Article 5 of the NATO Treaty.
“When we are a member of such an organisation, we should not only benefit from it within collective security, but we should also give something. We have an obligation to take part in it collectively if someone else is attacked,” he added.
Babis accused Pavel of wanting to send troops to Ukraine, quoting from Pavel’s twitter account.
Pavel said he had written about the establishment of a humanitarian corridor. “You did not understand the content of the tweet,” he added.
Pavel said Babis was leading an unfair campaign and should apologise. This was dismissed by Babis, who said he had no reason to apologise.
Pavel said Babis had led the country into debt, which Babis denied.
Asked what he had discussed with Communist politician Josef Skala and Jaroslav Foldyna, a deputy from the far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), during his visit to Decin last week, Babis said he had spoken with Foldyna as he was a lawmaker.
“When it comes to Skala, he just came to Decin, we did not speak much,” said Babis. He added that Skala, labelled as a Stalinist, welcomed the Soviet troops in 1968 as Pavel had.
“One cannot much react to this, you are constantly telling lies. This is not normal. So try and tell the truth,” Pavel said.
When it came to assistance for Ukraine, Babis said there was no reason to lower the comfort of Czech citizens.
Pavel said this was a matter of solidarity, which he said was a concept alien to Babis. He said that the partial lowering of comfort to Czechs related to help for Ukraine was due to the war triggered by Russia.
Babis said NATO and the EU helped Ukraine, but the government was not helping Czech citizens.
Pavel said Babis was a chaotic micro manager and had spoken a lot of nonsense in the discussion.