Bratislava: Government critic Zuzana Caputova secured a huge first-round win over the ruling party candidate in Slovakia’s weekend election, putting her one step closer to becoming the country’s first female president.
Official results showed Caputova securing more than twice the votes of her rival Maros Sefcovic, suggesting the electorate had shunned the political establishment following last year’s shock murder of an investigative journalist probing corruption.
The liberal environmental lawyer, who secured 40 per cent of the vote, is almost certain to win the March 30 run-off against European Commission vice-president Sefcovic, who took just 19 per cent.
The outcome is likely to spell trouble for the governing Smer-SD ahead of next year’s general election. “Caputova has such a large lead that Sefcovic would have to attract nearly all the unsuccessful candidates' voters and that is improbable,” Bratislava-based analyst Grigorij Meseznikov said.
“By choosing Caputova, people have strongly called for change for the better in accordance with the values of liberal democracy,” he said.
“Those who want continuity and Smer-SD to remain in power are in the clear minority.”
Running on a slogan of “Stand up to evil,” the divorced mother of two had joined tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets after the killing of journalist Jan Kuciak who was investigating political corruption.
Kuciak and his fiancee were gunned down in February 2018 just as he was about to publish a story on alleged ties between Slovak politicians and the Italian mafia.
The murder shocked the nation and raised fears about media freedom and political corruption.
It also sparked the largest anti-government protests since Commu-nist times in the central European country of 5.4 million people, which spent decades behind the Iron Curtain before joining the European Union, the eurozone and NATO.
Robert Fico, who was prime minister at the time, was forced to resign but he remains leader of the populist-left Smer-SD and is a close ally of current premier Peter Pellegrini. “These anti-government protests and their consequences showed the people that their opinion mattered. It was a very important factor in the election,” Meseznikov said....