“One word – hope”: Name supporters embrace Pavel victory
Hundreds of supporters thronged Petr Pavel’s election headquarters in Prague on Saturday. The mood was upbeat when the very first counted districts gave him an instant lead in the presidential election – and euphoric as it became ever clearer he was going to win. I spoke to some of the well-known personalities in attendance.
Loud chants of “president, president” rang out as Petr Pavel – by then clear of victory – made his first appearance on stage at his election HQ at Prague’s Forum Karlín before 4 pm on Saturday.
A short while later billionaire businessman Dalibor Deděk gave his reaction to Pavel’s resounding defeat of Andrej Babiš.
“One word, and this is hope. Hope that we will have a better president, somebody who will try to unite the polarised politicians and in the same way the rest of society.”
Also present was Michal Horáček, a famous song lyricist and entrepreneur who himself stood for head of state in the last election.
“It’s extremely important.
“After 10, or even 20, years of our presidents not really cultivating the Czech… environment [laughs], we need someone who will not create problems at least; someone who will calm down the situation, and calm it down after really thinking about it.
“He has a great chance to be a remarkable president.”
Mr. Horáček said he saw Petr Pavel grow as he campaigned for the presidency.
“Three years ago I went to see him, to encourage him to run.
“So I was closely following him and he was improving along the way, really remarkably.
“He was really an introverted guy, and now sometimes he’s really funny. He can make a good crack – I love that.
“So it is also a factor contributing to his success.”
Prague-born French political scientist Jacques Rupnik said Pavel, a former chair of NATO’s military committee, got his campaign strategy right.
“I think that he didn’t try to pretend that he was something that he was not.
“He was not trying to say, I’m a new Havel, I’m a visionary. No – he doesn’t have the vision thing.
“So he tried to say, I am the guardian of institutions, of the constitution, of certain values – and I know a thing or two about foreign policy and defence and security policy.
“Which in times of war on our doorstep is not completely irrelevant.
“And second – he didn’t get himself engaged in one of those riffraff polemics that Babiš would enjoy.”
The retired general was a member of the pre-1989 Communist Party and underwent intelligence training.
But actor-director Jiří Mádl, who publicly backed Mr. Pavel, said he dealt with that issue correctly.
“It’s impossible not to mention the past of Petr Pavel, if it comes to his participation in the Communist Party, but that was the past, when he was at the age of 18, I guess.
“Some books say that it’s better to bounce from your sins than never to encounter them.
“And I think his recent years and his service in NATO actually make it clear that he is a person of the present and the future, not the past.”