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31.03.2019 Europe

Slovakia Elects Zuzana Caputova As First Female President

By RFI
Reuters/David W Cerny
MAR 31, 2019 EUROPE

Political newcomer Zuzana Caputova is to become Slovakia's first female president after winning more than 58 percent of Sunday's election. The anti-corruption activist's victory has been greeted as a call for change a year after the brutal murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancée.

Caputova rose to national prominence in the aftermath of the shootings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova in February 2018, joining in mass anti-government protests that toppled then-premier Robert Fico.

"Let us look for what connects us. Let us promote cooperation above personal interests," Caputova said after her victory.

The 45-year-old environmental lawyer added that the outcome was a sign that "you can win without attacking your opponents".

"I believe this trend will also be confirmed in the elections to the European Parliament and the Slovak parliamentary elections next year."

Caputova's victory came as a blow to the ruling Smer-SD party, whose candidate Maros Sefcovic came in second.

Sefcovic called Caputova to congratulate her and said he planned to send her flowers. "The first female president of Slovakia deserves a bouquet," he told reporters.

Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, who also belongs to Smer-SD party, said he expected "constructive cooperation".

Outgoing President Andrej Kiska told reporters that "Slovakia is in a moral crisis and needs a president like Zuzana Caputova".

"Many countries probably envy us for we have chosen a president who symbolises values like decency."

Justice for all

Caputova, who ran on a slogan of "Stand up to evil" had earlier called the last few weeks "extremely challenging" and "an intense journey".

No stranger to tough battles, Caputova won a 2016 award for successfully blocking a planned landfill in her hometown of Pezinok.

More recently, she took to the streets after the murder of Jan Kuciak, who had been preparing to publish a story on alleged ties between Slovak politicians and the Italian mafia.

Five people have been charged, including a millionaire businessman with alleged Smer-SD ties who is suspected of ordering the murders.

The European Parliament has urged Slovakia to look into "any possible political links to the crimes."

MEPs voiced "concern about the allegations of corruption, conflicts of interest, impunity and revolving doors in Slovakia's circles of power".

---With AFP

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