Political Newcomer Zuzana Caputova Wins Slovak Presidency
Anti-corruption candidate Zuzana Caputova has won Slovakia’s presidential election with 58 percent of the vote, making her the country’s first female head of state. Caputova campaigned as a pro-Western liberal and has said she would use her platform as president to bring greater transparency to Slovakia.
A liberal environmental activist and political newcomer, Zuzana Caputova was elected Slovakia’s new president on Saturday after securing 58 percent of the vote. Despite never having held public office before, Caputova defeated Maros Sefcovic, a veteran diplomat backed by the ruling leftist Smer – Social Democracy party. Sefcovic, a pro-EU prominent figure in the country’s politics, also serves as a vice president in the European Commission.
Despite the fact that the Slovak presidency wields less power than the prime minister’s office, Caputova’s election was championed across the world as not just a win for women, but a win against corruption. The former lawyer rode to victory on a wave of public outrage against the current government that started after the violent murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee last year.
This led to tens of thousands of Slovaks taking to the streets to demand justice, which eventually prompted the resignation of the country’s then-prime minister, Robert Fico. Caputova has been a vocal participant in the protests and based her presidential campaign on tackling corruption.
In her acceptance speech, Caputova also framed the win as a hard blow to the nationalist and populist rhetoric that has been on the rise in central Europe.
“I am happy not just for the result, but mainly that it is possible not to succumb to populism, to tell the truth, to raise interest without aggressive vocabulary,” she told supporters in the languages of her country’s main minorities – Hungarian, Czech, Roma, and Ruthenian.
“This started in the local election last year, was confirmed in the presidential election, and I believe the European [parliamentary election in May] will confirm it as well.”
Immediately after her victory, Caputova lit a candle at a memorial for the assassinated journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova. Despite a heated election campaign, Maros Sefocvic told reporters that he called Caputova to congratulate her on the win. The runner-up also said that he plans on sending her flowers, as “the first female president of Slovakia deserves a bouquet.”
Several heads of state, including presidents of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, and president of Austria, Alexander Van der Bellen, have congratulated Caputova on the win and expressed support for her effort to bring transparency to the government.