Petr Pavel, the retired general who won the Czech presidential election on Saturday, is a war hero with a passion for motorcycles.
Pavel defeated billionaire former prime minister Andrej Babis to become the fourth president of the Czech Republic since independence in 1993.
True to his military past, the 61-year-old has vowed to “restore order” in the 10.5 million-people European Union and NATO member if elected.
“I cannot ignore the fact that people here are increasingly feeling chaos, disorder and uncertainty. The state has somehow stopped working,” Powell said on his campaign website.
“We need to change this. We need to play by the rules, which are equally valid for all. We need a general sweep,” he said.
With a carefully trimmed beard and gray hair, Powell rarely smiled during the campaign, but that didn’t seem to matter to voters.
“His undeniable advantage is that he looks very charismatic and representative, even when he just stands and says nothing,” independent political analyst Jan Kubacek told AFP.
– Communist ‘mistake’ –
Born on November 1, 1961, Pavel attended both a military grammar school and a military university in the former Czechoslovakia, which was then ruled by Moscow-backed communists.
He joined the Communist Party and began a rapid rise through the army ranks.
His critics blame him for studying to become a military intelligence agent for the communist army.
“I was born into a family where party membership was considered normal,” Powell said on his website.
“I didn’t have enough information and experience to assess the criminal nature of the ruling. Now I know it was a mistake.”
When communism collapsed in 1989, Powell tossed aside his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.
An elite paratrooper, Pavel achieved recognition in early 1993 when he helped liberate French troops from a Serbo-Croatian war zone.
– ‘Grandpa’ –
After the Czech Republic joined NATO in 1999, Pavel spent three years at the alliance’s regional command in the Netherlands.
He later earned a master’s degree in international relations at King’s College, London, before serving as Chief of Staff of the Czech Army.
In 2015, he was appointed head of the NATO Military Committee, its top military official.
With a chest full of decorations — including the US Legion of Merit and France’s Croix de Guerre for bravery — Powell retired from the military in 2018.
When the COVID pandemic broke out, Powell established the “Stronger Together” initiative to deal with various crises and assist those in need.
Pavel’s wife Eva is also a soldier. He has two sons from a previous marriage, as well as a stepdaughter, and describes himself as a “grandfather enjoying his grandchildren”.
Powell claims to enjoy traveling, skiing, photography and reading in his spare time, but his true passion is motorcycling.
After switching from Suzuki off-road bikes, he now owns a dual-sport BMW.
“For 33 years, I have served my country’s democratic and pro-Western drive,” Powell said on his website.
“I believe that my actions clearly show the values I stand for and I am prepared to fight hard to uphold them.”
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)