Retired general Petr Pavel held a 15 percentage point lead over billionaire ex-premier Andrej Babiš heading into the January 27-28 Czech presidential run-off vote, a Czech Television poll showed on Sunday.
The two are squaring off in a second round vote starting next Friday after Pavel narrowly won over Babiš in the first round of the election last weekend, although neither scored a majority of votes.
The poll showed Pavel leading with 53 percent compared to 38 percent for Babiš with 9 percent undecided. The expected turnout could hit 84 percent in the poll next weekend, the highest ever in a Czech presidential vote, the survey found.
“Let’s hold on, let’s not get discouraged, let’s spread what they can’t: decency, humility and hope,” Petr Pavel wrote on social media adding a photo of the poll results.
Both Pavel, a former general who held a senior NATO military job, and combative opposition leader Babiš, who served as prime minister from 2017-2021, would likely be more pro-Western than retiring incumbent Miloš Zeman.
Pavel, 61, is strongly pro-Western and supports further military aid for Ukraine as well as the adoption of the euro.
Nejnovější průzkum potvrdil dvě věci:
1. Cesta k vítězství světa Babiše, Zemana, Vrabela a spol. vede přes vystrašení dostatečného počtu voličů.
2. Zatím se jim to nedaří!
Vydržme, nezalekněme se, šiřme to, co oni nedokážou: slušnost, pokoru a naději. pic.twitter.com/prRiRXi0Q9
— Petr Pavel (@general_pavel) January 21, 2023
Babiš, 68, who built a chemicals, farming and media empire now registered in trust funds, shares Zeman’s warm relations with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who has been at odds with the European Union over the rule of law.
Babiš has also spoken in the past against Ukraine military aid and has touted ambitions to organise a peace summit while attacking Pavel in the past week for being pro-war.
Pavel, endorsed by the centre-right government, has accused Babiš of fear-mongering.
Some voters have also voiced frustration that both first-round winners were members of the Communist Party prior to the end of its rule in 1989.
Babiš worked in foreign trade and was registered as a Communist-era secret police informant, which he denies. Pavel started his military career in the 1980s and enrolled in a military intelligence training course, which he completed after Communist rule collapsed.