Zuzanna Caputova, an anti-corruption lawyer who entered politics solely a yr in the past, comfortably gained the primary spherical of Slovakia’s presidential election, within the first nationwide ballot for the reason that nation was rocked by the murder of an investigative journalist.
Early outcomes prompt that Ms Caputova — a liberal, pro-European candidate, whose marketing campaign tapped right into a vein of deep public shock and anger on the killing of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée final yr — had gained 39.1 per cent of the votes forged.
Maros Sefcovic — Slovakia’s present EU commissioner who’s backed by Smer, Slovakia’s greatest get together — got here second with 18.9 per cent. If the outcomes are confirmed, he’ll face Ms Caputova, who could be Slovakia’s first girl president, in a run-off in two weeks’ time.
“I see these elections . . . within the context of a robust name for change after the tragic occasions of final spring,” Ms Caputova mentioned as she forged her vote in her hometown of Pezinok. “Maybe we’re additionally at a crossroads when it comes to rebuilding public belief.”
Ms Caputova’s emergence as a political pressure is an indication of how dramatically the sands of Slovak politics have shifted for the reason that deaths of Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova 13 months in the past. Police shortly linked the killings to Kuciak’s work investigating corruption. This triggered the largest protests in Slovakia for the reason that collapse of communism and finally compelled the resignation of veteran prime minister, Robert Fico.
Whereas Ms Caputova’s efficiency represents a uncommon victory for liberal forces in central Europe, which has been the scene of a collection of victories by populist and nationalist events lately, hardline candidates additionally garnered a sizeable share of the vote.
Stefan Harabin — a former ally of 1990s strongman Vladimir Meciar who steadily rails in opposition to foreigners and Brussels, and is a critic of EU sanctions on Russia — gained 14.6 per cent. Marion Kotleba, an excessive proper chief who romanticises the fascist Slovak state of 1939-1945 led by Catholic priest Jozef Tiso, gained 10.6 per cent.
“The inhabitants may be very polarised. One motive is the hole between the behaviour of politicians and the expectations of residents . . . Like elsewhere, Slovakia can be dealing with the influence of globalisation, new applied sciences, terrorism, migration — an excessive amount of uncertainty,” mentioned Iveta Radicova, who was Slovakia’s first feminine prime minister in 2010, and is now professor of sociology on the Pan-European College in Bratislava.
“This has created the area for anti-system actions and new political forces — and for extremists providing a steady level for folks in a world of insecurity and distrust.”
Ms Caputova’s first large success as a lawyer got here when she gained a 14-year battle in opposition to the growth of a poisonous waste web site in Pezinok in 2013. Then in 2017, she was a part of a marketing campaign to have controversial pardons issued by Mr Meciar overturned.
Nonetheless, the 45-year-old, who has by no means held public workplace, started her marketing campaign final yr as a comparatively unknown determine, and was languishing in fifth locations within the polls till a collection of excellent performances in pre-election debates and an endorsement from a rival candidate catapulted her to the entrance of the sector of 13 presidential hopefuls.
Her surge to the top of the pack triggered a robust backlash from her opponents, who’ve accused her of missing expertise and being too liberal for Slovakia.
Mr Harabin branded her a “lover of migration”. Mr Fico, who, like his Smer get together, is backing Mr Sefcovic, claimed that her liberal stance on LGBT rights amounted to supporting “gay insanity”. Far-right candidates have tried to hyperlink her to their bogeyman, George Soros.
Ms Caputova’s allies mentioned that they anticipated Mr Sefcovic to try to claw again floor on the frontrunner over the following two weeks by stressing his larger expertise of worldwide politics.
“Smer is in such disarray that there hasn’t actually been any coherent messaging from them. However Sefcovic will most likely say that he has extra credibility on the worldwide scene and that she is unprepared,” mentioned Martin Dubeci, from Progressive Slovakia, the upstart political grouping that’s backing Ms Caputova’s marketing campaign.
“We’ll proceed to marketing campaign on most people want for a change of the established order, and for justice.”