“Active in foreign policy and clearly pro-Western”, pundit on President Pavel’s first year in office

Petr Pavel

Friday marks Petr Pavel’s first year as president of Czechia. What have been his biggest successes so far? And did he succeed in uniting the divided Czech society? I discussed these questions with political scientist Vlastimil Havlík from Masaryk University in Brno:

Petr Pavel in the courtyard of Prague Castle  (left) | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,  Czech Radio

“I would say that the most important thing related to his first year is that he was kind of a moderate president, not very “activist” and not competing with the cabinet or with the other part of the executive. That is quite a big difference from Miloš Zeman and it is the first thing that comes to my mind when evaluating him.”

What would you say where his biggest successes so far? Would you say it is the continuing support for Ukraine, namely the current shells-for-Ukraine plan?

“I would say that he was quite visible in two areas. The first one was his role in foreign policy, including his clear support for Ukraine. Again, we could say it was a really visible a turn from Miloš Zeman.

Petr Pavel at the 'Together for Ukraine' event | Photo: Igor Budykin,  Radio Prague International

“And secondly, he tried to be quite active also in domestic affairs. He tried to comment on some domestic policies. He tried to get in touch with people. He visited for example schools in excluded localities.

“So I would say this is definitely what defines his presidency: being active in foreign policy, clearly pro-Western and clearly pro-Ukrainian. He is also very civil and depolarizing when it comes to his relationship to ordinary people.”

According to recent polls, he is the most trusted politician in Czechia with around 55% trust rating. Would you say that unlike his predecessor he acts as a sort of uniting political figure?

Vlastimil Havlík | Photo: Masaryk University Brno

“I think he has been trying to do that. His support is quite high, although some of his predecessors enjoyed even higher support. But I think it is also because of the way the president is elected, because direct presidential elections are often accompanied by polarizing campaigns.

“But I think he tries to be this depolarizing figure. On the other hand his stands are quite clear and of course they don’t correspond with everyone’s views. But I would say he is more of a uniting figure.”

Petr Pavel | Photo: René Volfík,  iROZHLAS.cz

We spoke about President Pavel's successes. What about his failures? Have there been any?

“Well, I think what was kind of controversial was the way his office was run, with not really transparent and not really well- communicated personnel shifts, so I think this is something that should have been done in a better way.”