Hořovice, CZECH REPUBLIC – The new Czech president has just been elected. Petr Pavel, a former NATO general and honored figure among the majority of Czechs, is now the new head of state for at least five years.
These elections are very special – both nationally and for me personally. I turned 18 last December, so I was able to vote for the first time in my life.
It was such a great experience – to have the opportunity and the chance to change my country’s history and the direction it’s heading.
The turnout was unusually and unexpectedly high – Czech media reported more than 70% of eligible voters cast ballots. It may be because of the energetic social media campaigns run by the winner, Pavel and Andrej Babiš, who lost.
But it might also indicate that people in Czechia care more about politics now than in the past.
Pavel, a 61-year-old former NATO general, has been formally talking about his controversial history as a member of the Communist Party in what was then Czechoslovakia. Pavel admitted in interviews with Czech Television that it was a mistake, but in order to achieve his goals in the Army, he argued, it was necessary to have good relations with the Communists.
He announced his presidential run September 6, 2022.
Eva Pavlová, the wife of the president-elect and future First Lady, also served in NATO. She said she had not supported her husband in his presidential campaign at first, but after a few months, Czech Television reported, she realized how much Pavel wanted to become the new Czech president.
Now, his wishes are fullfiled and he will be inaugurated March 9.
Many world leaders have taken to Twitter to congratulate Pavel for his win, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and President Ursula von der Leyen of the Europen Commission.
Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová traveled to Prague to express her delight over the new Czech head of state – a big gesture from the Slovak president, because despite the close relations between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, this isn´t according to any tradition.
Pavel has already spoken with the Polish President Andrzej Duda by phone, too.
When all the votes were counted in just a few hours and the winner announced, Pavel thanked to all the Czechs who voted for him, but also to those who didn´t and promised he will be president to everybody.
He will name a new cabinet, and because of his very good relations with the Prime Minister Petr Fiala, Czechs expect better days ahead.
Pavel’s first presidential visit is going to be to the Slovak capital Bratislava and he wants to travel to Ukraine, possibly with Čaputová, he told Czech Television.
Babiš said at his news conference that despite his defeat, he plans to stay in politics and wants to move his party ANO to win the next governmental election in 2025.
But the whole world should celebrate Pavel’s victory.
If Babiš had won, we would have seen big celebrations in Moscow and Beijing. And these are not the destinations of democracy.
Renata Pernegrová is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.