31 March 2019
Anti-corruption candidate Zuzana Caputova has won Slovakia’s presidential election, making her the country’s first female head of state. The post of the president is largely a ceremonial role, without any executive power. Nevertheless, her victory makes a turning point in the history of Slovakia. Anti-corruption voice was heard across the country.
She won the first round of the election, two weeks earlier, with more than 40 percent of ballots cast, more than double that of her opponent.
The murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancé Martina Kušnírová, in February of last year, set off wave of street protests in Slovakia and led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Robert Fico. Jan Kuciak was looking into links between politicians and organised crime when he was shot.
Most of the protesters held Fico and his SMER party had some link to the killings. Marian Kočner was arrested for the murder. But the protesters feel that Kočner was connected to prominent politicians and government officials.
Ms Caputova said that Mr Kuciak’s death was one of the reasons she decided to run for president.
Ms Caputova gained national prominence as a lawyer when she led a case against an illegal landfill lasting 14 years. Aged 45, a divorcee and mother of two, she is a member of the liberal Progressive Slovakia party, which has no seats in parliament. She will be sworn in on 15 June when Slovakia’s current president, Andrej Kiska, finishes his term of office.
Caputova also said that her win would encourage anti-corruption activists and liberals across the Continent. “Obviously in the EU but also, more broadly, in Europe, developments in one country influence events in other countries and can have an inspirational effect,” she said.
Voters from both sides of the political divide were united by their distrust of politicians and their rejection of the grave injustices that overshadowed Slovak society in the recent past.