Political outsider wins Slovakia’s presidential election

Zuzana Čaputová’s victory is cause of celebration for pro-EU and democratic forces throughout Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Brussels | Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

PRAGUE — Political novice and activist Zuzana Čaputová is on course to became the first female president of Slovakia, swept into office by public outrage at the 2018 killings of an investigative journalist and his fiancée.

With around 97 percent of the votes counted, the 45-year-old lawyer’s tally stood at 58.3 percent of the vote in Saturday’s runoff against European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič.

“Perhaps we thought politics was only a sign of weakness, and today we see it as a sign of strength,” she told jubilant supporters in Bratislava.

She had convincingly 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 killings of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, in February of last year, set off the largest wave of street protests in Slovakia since the anti-Communist demonstrations of 1989 and led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Most of the protesters held Fico’s government and his SMER party indirectly responsible for the killings. The subsequent investigation has discovered links between the man now charged with ordering the murders, Marian Kočner, and prominent politicians and officials.

Čaputová’s victory is cause for celebration for pro-EU and democratic forces throughout Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in Brussels.

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