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Babiš alone against Pavel in Czech election run-off

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Czechia – The second round of the Czech presidential elections will take place on 27–28 January with a run-off ballot between General Petr Pavel, who got 35.4% of the vote in the first round, and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, who came in second with 35.0% of the vote. As the two candidates are ramping up their campaigns, the main defeated candidates have expressed their support for Petr Pavel, who also has the Fiala government’s backing.

On the evening of the first round, economist Danuše Nerudová, who came in third with 13.9% of the vote, was the first to endorse General Pavel’s candidacy, writing on Twitter: “Congratulations to the winner of the first round, General Pavel, and fingers crossed for the second round!” Senator Pavel Fischer, who came fourth in the first round with 6.8% of the vote, followed suit, saying that “we must join forces” (against Babiš).

For its part, Tomio Okamura’s sovereignist right-wing party Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), which supported former ambassador Jaroslav Bašta (4.5%) in the first round, has thanked “all citizens who voted for [its] candidate” and indicated that it “will not support a candidate associated with the ruling coalition”. The SPD will therefore not lend its support to General Pavel, but it did not call on its voters to cast their ballots in favour of Andrej Babiš, either.

As for the campaign between Pavel and Babiš, it is already getting quite ugly.

Andrej Babiš fired the first shot when he said: “I will not lead Czechia into war. I am a diplomat, not a soldier”, calling his opponent a former “communist intelligence agent”. “I congratulate him for reaching the NATO military committee as a communist intelligence officer – trained in Russia – who welcomed the invasion of Russian troops. Hats off to you!” Babiš added, noting that the only former communist agent to be president of a country in Europe was none other than Vladimir Putin.

I didn’t manage to watch Babiš’s press conference, but I heard that it was terribly boring”, was Petr Pavel’s answer. When Babiš challenged him to prove his international stature by publishing a photo showing him with a foreign leader or politician, Pavel quickly complied by publishing photos showing him with multiple personalities, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, and former US President Donald Trump.

Senator Pavel Fischer has also taken a position on the controversy sparked by Andrej Babiš: “One of the two [candidates] is unacceptable to me and represents a security threat. That’s Babiš. The other has a life story and it is time to tell the truth. This is why I have given him my support, period.”