Retired general Petr Pavel, who leads in opinion polls going into the Czech presidential run-off on Friday and Saturday, is a war hero with a passion for motorcycles.
True to his military past, the 61-year-old has vowed to “restore order” in the EU and NATO member of 10.5 million people if elected.
“I can’t ignore the fact that people here increasingly feel chaos, disorder and uncertainty. That the state has somehow ceased to function,” Pavel said on his campaign website.
“We need to change this. We need to play by the rules, which will be valid for everyone alike. We need a general sweep,” he added.
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 army ranks.
His critics fault him for having studied to become a military intelligence agent for the communist army.
“I was born into a family where party membership was considered normal,” Pavel said on his website.
“I didn’t have enough information and experience to assess the criminal nature of the regime. Now I know it was a mistake.”
When communism fell in 1989, Pavel cast aside his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.
An elite paratrooper, Pavel won recognition when he helped free French troops from a Serbo-Croatian war zone in 1993.
– ‘Stronger together’ –
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 in London before going on to work as the Czech army’s chief of staff.
In 2015, he was appointed the 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 — Pavel retired from the army in 2018.
When the pandemic struck, Pavel founded the “Stronger Together” initiative to help tackle various crises and assist those in need.
Pavel’s wife Eva is also a soldier. He has two sons from a previous marriage, plus a stepdaughter.
Pavel claims to enjoy travel, skiing, photography and reading during his spare time, but his true passion is motorcycling.
Having switched from a Suzuki off-road bike, he now has a dual-sport BMW.
“For 33 years, I have served the democratic and pro-western drive of our country,” Pavel said on his website.