Slovakia Elects First Female President

Friday 5th April 2019 | Jake

When Zuzana Čaputová revealed her campaign slogan, “Stand up to evil”, few figured it would make much of an impact. The former anti-corruption campaigner, lawyer and activist was vying to become Slovakia’s first female president, campaigning on a liberal platform beaming with positivity and progressiveness. It didn’t look good initially, Čaputová has next to no experience in politics, and was doing poorly in polls up until a few months ago, registering only single figures. However, she won last Saturday’s election with 58.4% of the votes, and told supporters in Bratislava – the country’s capital – that she wanted to “promote cooperation above personal interests” as president.

It may well have been her inexperience that gave her an edge over her rival Maroš Šefčovič. Slovakia’s politics has been dogged by allegations of widespread corruption and the public’s low opinion of its politicians was highlighted by a voter turnout of just over 40%. Čaputová had previously helped organise protests against the government, and her anti-corruption stance undoubtedly struck a chord with a fed up public. Speaking to some of her supporters in Bratislava on Saturday, she said the election result showed “it is possible not to succumb to populism, to tell the truth, to raise interest without aggressive vocabulary.”

Many will be hoping her words prove prophetic, as countries in central and eastern Europe continue to flirt with far-right populism. Slovakia itself is struggling with a wave of support for the far-right. In 2013 the neo-fascist Marian Kotleba was elected regional governor of Banská Bystrica. He was voted out of office in 2017, while his campaign for presidency in this year’s elections elicited a 10% share of votes.

Slovakia has a president and a prime minister. The president has far less power, although Čaputová will be able to block government proposals, appoint top judges and will be commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Andrej Kiska, the outgoing president, chose not to run for a second term, but was nonetheless pleased with the election’s outcome. He told journalists that “Slovakia is in a moral crisis and needs a president like Zuzana Čaputová.”