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Humanist lawyer becomes Slovakia’s first female president

Anti-corruption activist and environmental campaigner Zuzana Čaputová has comfortably won the second round of Slovakia’s presidential election, taking more than 58.4 per cent of the vote.

Ms Čaputová’s rival, the European Energy Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič – who was backed by Slovakia’s ruling SMER party – conceded defeat just hours after polls closed on March 30.

“This campaign has shown  that values such as humanity, solidarity and truth are important for lots of people in Slovakia,” Ms Čaputová told supporters at a victory rally in the Slovak capital Bratislava.

“Politics are no longer a sign of weakness. Today we have shown that they are a sign of strength,” she added.

An experienced lawyer but political novice, Ms Čaputová, 45, came to prominence in 2016 when she successfully led a campaign to prevent a landfill site from being built in her home town of Pezinok. She has vowed to do all she can to rid Slovakia of corruption and pursue deeper integration with the European Union. Her progress will be followed closely across emerging Europe where other independent, liberal-minded individuals and groups are also fighting to defend humanism and European values against a wave of populism.

Ms Čaputová had never before run for office but admitted recently that she had felt impelled to act following the the murder last year of the reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. Her first act as president-elect was to light a candle at a memorial to the couple.

Mr Kuciak had been investigating links between the Italian Mafia and Slovak businessmen and politicians. Five people have been charged with ordering and carrying out the murders, including a Slovak billionaire, Marián Kočner.

The public outcry over the murder led to the resignation of prime minister Robert Fico. He remains the leader of SMER, however, and a close ally of the current prime minister Peter Pellegrini.

Photo: Zuzana Čaputová official Facebook page.

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