Expert: "Much harder" for Babiš to challenge Pavel than Nerudová in run-off

With only weeks to go until the elections, a new poll suggests the three frontrunners in elections for the Czech presidency are neck and neck. For ages it seemed it would be a battle between Andrej Babiš and Petr Pavel, but recently Danuše Nerudová has emerged as a serious contender. How has she achieved this surge? I spoke to political scientist Petr Just.

Petr Just | Photo: ČT24

“She started a very intensive campaign, both a classic campaign – in the streets, already during collecting signatures, but also later – but, mainly, she started a very active campaign on social media.

“And with all the interviews she has been providing to the media, and all the debates that have been going on, she became much more broadly known.

“That is one factor behind the strengthening of her position in polls.

“The second is that she actually talks in a nice way. She doesn’t talk about any controversial stuff.

“But it’s not just about what she is doing – it’s also about what the other candidates are doing.

“We have seen a lot of pressure against Petr Pavel because of his past [he was a member of the Communist Party, praised the Soviet invasion in his CV and is accused of having done military counterintelligence training pre-1989].

“And many voters who are considering a vote for Petr Pavel also do not rule out voting for Danuše Nerudová.”

Andrej Babiš | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio

Andrej Babiš seems to still have a good chance of making it into the second round. Which of the other two frontrunners do you think he would prefer to face, Danuše Nerudová or Petr Pavel?

“First of all, I think the current situation is that any of the three top candidates can get into the second round.

“I can imagine any duel between these three candidates: Babiš versus Nerudová or Babiš versus Pavel or Nerudová versus Pavel.

“So I wouldn’t rule out, at this moment, that there could be a duel without Andrej Babiš, although that was something that was almost impossible to think about a few weeks or months ago.

Petr Pavel | Photo: Czech Ministry of Defence

“But back to your question. In my opinion, it would be much harder for Andrej Babiš to challenge Petr Pavel in the second round.

“This is why I think there are not even many attacks from Andrej Babiš against Danuše Nerudová, because he would probably feel more confident in challenging her in the second round – and potentially also winning the second round.

“While if would compare Petr Pavel and Andrej Babiš, despite these two candidates having similar pasts [Babiš was in the Communist Party and is accused by some of having been a secret police agent] Petr Pavel seems to be much more charismatic than Andrej Babiš, who appears to be easy to get hysterical, easy to get aggressive.

“By contrast, Petr Pavel is acting in much more of a calm way, in the way of a statesman.

“And I think this would be one of the reasons for Andrej Babiš having more fear of Petr Pavel in the second round than regarding Danuše Nerudová.”

Danuše Nerudová | Photo: Karkanoid1991,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0

Czechia has never had a female president. Do you think Czech society would actually vote for a woman president?

“Yes, I think Czech society is not in any way negatively stereotyped against women in politics.

“I think the fact that there has never been for example woman president, or a woman prime minister, is more about the lack of willingness from political parties to nominate these people.

“But when it comes to society, I think it is quite open in this regard.

“And I think the success of Danuše Nerudová in polls is one proof of this statement.”

Author: Ian Willoughby
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