“He has returned a degree of dignity to the post”: President Pavel’s first 100 days in office evaluated

Petr Pavel

Saturday marks Petr Pavel’s first 100 days as president of Czechia. What have been his biggest successes – and his biggest failures? I spoke to political scientist Jiří Pehe about how he would rate how the fledgling president is doing so far.

Jiří Pehe | Photo: Kateřina Cibulka,  Czech Radio

"I think that President Pavel is doing quite well, especially if we compare his performance with that of his predecessor, Miloš Zeman, who really wasn't an active president during the last years of his presidency, and who also wasn't really a very constructive politician, getting into a number of conflicts and clashes with other politicians and so on. Whereas it seems to me that Mr Pavel is trying very hard to find consensus on the Czech political scene, and his performance in foreign policy in particular is very impressive."

Has he done the things he promised during his election campaign that he would do in his first 100 days?

"If we look at what he promised and what he has actually been doing, he has pretty much managed to stick to his intentions. Especially in foreign policy, he has been very active and he has tried very hard to find some consensus with other top politicians in the Czech Republic - the prime minister and the speakers of both houses of parliament. He has returned the Czech Republic firmly on a pro-Western path, and that is certainly an achievement.

"In domestic politics he has some problems, not because of his activities, but because it's not always easy to find some kind of understanding with all political actors, especially with the opposition. But even there I think he has been doing quite well."

What have been his biggest successes?

The new judges of Czech Constitutional Court | Photo: Constitutional Court

"On the domestic scene it has been a pretty smooth process of finding new judges for the Constitutional Court, because three seats were not filled after he took office and he managed to fill those three seats very quickly and efficiently. The process for the selection of the judges has been very transparent and again, in comparison with his predecessor, very productive. So I think that's probably his biggest success on the domestic political scene.

"In foreign policy, he's been very successful in general. I could name, for example, finding a new more productive place for the Czech Republic in NATO, and also improving relations with Czechia's neighbours."

Have there been any failures?

"There have been no really glaring failures that I could find. I think that his first 100 days in office have been mostly successful. Certainly, he has navigated some difficult waters on the domestic scene because the government has been trying to adopt some austerity measures and the president had to navigate between what the government wants to do and what the opposition says is wrong with the government's plans. But he has been quite good even in that and has paid visits to both houses of the Czech parliament."

Is there anything that you think he could perhaps improve upon?

Petr Pavel speaking in the lower chamber of the Czech Parliament | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,  Czech Radio

"There is certainly one area where I think he could improve, and that is the way he delivers speeches. He is not a great speaker, certainly not at the same level as the first Czech President Václav Havel, or even Miloš Zeman, his predecessor. But that is something he can certainly learn. As a former general, he is sometimes too brief, too curt, he doesn't explain certain things maybe the way he should as a politician. But I think that's a learning process and he will get there."

A recent poll found that around 60 percent of Czechs trust Petr Pavel as president, while only about half as many trust the government. Why is there such a big disparity?

Photo: Barbora Navrátilová,  Radio Prague International

"The Czech president in general is always popular, the institution is popular, so even Mr. Zeman during the period when he was not so successful was still supported by almost 50 percent of the Czech people.

“And of course the position of the Czech president does not really generate conflict, unless the president himself wants to generate conflict, and that of course contributes to the relatively high level of popularity of Czech presidents, because they are not as involved in day-to-day politics and in fighting various political battles as political parties in the parliament are.

“But at the same time, I think it's also because Pavel is a good president - he has really returned a degree of dignity to the presidential post, and that is appreciated by people."