Pavel: “Talk of Babis As President Motivated Me To Run For Office”

Pavel had not yet spoken to either Babis or incumbent President Milos Zeman since his election victory. Photo credit: Petr Pavel via Facebook.

Prague, Jan 30 (CTK) – Discussions about the possibility of ex-PM Andrej Babis (ANO) becoming the Czech president motivated retired general Petr Pavel to his own candidacy for the post, he said in an interview on the public Czech TV on Saturday, after winning the presidential runoff vote.

He also said he had not yet spoken to either Babis or incumbent President Milos Zeman since his election victory. As of Sunday evening, he had still not spoken to the former president, and had only communicated with Babis via text message.

Pavel, 61, said he felt fear of the possible developments when Zeman started speaking in 2019 about Babis as his potential successor in Prague Castle.

“I told myself that I would really not wish it for this country,” he said, adding that this was why he had decided to offer himself as an alternative in the presidential contest.

“Without Andrej Babis being the favoured candidate, I may not have had the motivation to run myself,” he noted.

Pavel also challenged Zeman, saying the dignity of the presidential post had been harmed during his presidency. But at the same time, Pavel said he appreciated Zeman’s interest in the military and his support for defence budgets and foreign missions.

Pavel called the campaign before the runoff vote the most difficult part of his path to the presidency. He faced robust attacks during this period, as Babis connected him with the threat of war.

“The campaign in the second round was being led in a way that was not typical of me,” Pavel said. However, he praised the fact that the atmosphere had been successfully calmed down by his final debates with Babis on TV Nova and public Czech Radio.

Pavel said he had not expected the topic of war to be used this way at the end of the campaign.

“Fear and dread should not be abused. I can understand that many people fear the possibility of war and mobilisation and they worry about their life certainties. This is completely understandable but cannot be abused. I objected to that,” he said .

Pavel said that like Zeman he would be touring the regions as head of state, but would prefer such trips to be more informal and focused more on citizens’ problems. He intends to start his tour in the most crisis-affected regions, such as Karlovy Vary, Usti, and Moravia-Silesia.

Pavel noted that he would also like to hold talks with the opposition to be able to act as a moderator of their debate with the government. In this respect, he is prepared to talk with ANO leader Babis, and expects their working meetings to be led in a more constructive manner, he added.

He told Czech Radio Radiozurnal that the protective security service had taken responsibility for his safety after the election results were recognized on Saturday afternoon, but that he would keep living in Cernoucek in the Usti Region for the time being.

A crowd of Pavel’s supporters was waiting for him outside the National Museum in Prague, where Czech TV were broadcasting the interview live. Some of them carried Czech flags and banners reading “Thank You”, wore caps with the insignia “general”, and chanted slogans such as “Pavel to the Castle” and “Truth and Love”.

Pavel won the presidential election with 58.3% of the vote, while Babis only received 41.7%. The new president-elect will take his oath and be inaugurated on 9 March, replacing Zeman.

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