Petr Pavel to become next Czech president

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Petr Pavel, a former NATO general, will become the next president of the Czech Republic after resoundingly beating his opponent, billionaire and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, in elections that culminated on Saturday, early results showed.

With more than 90 percent of the country’s ballots counted, Pavel had secured 57 percent of the votes compared to 43 percent for Babiš.

Current Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala congratulated the former general — and staunch ally of Ukraine in its ongoing war against Russia — in a press conference in Prague, calling Pavel a “civic candidate.”

“The values that he represented won — and that’s a very important message in these internally and economically complicated times,” Fiala told the audience in Prague, according to local media reports.

The 61-year-old incoming president ran as a political independent and promised to reduce polarization in an Eastern European country that has been split along increasingly cultural and political dividing lines.

While most of the political power resides with the Czech prime minister, Pavel has been a vocal supporter of closer ties with the European Union, including the adoption of the euro.

Before diving into domestic politics, he was chief of the Czech army’s general staff between 2012 and 2015, and then served as chairman of NATO’s military committee from 2015 to 2018.