Caputova earned the nickname “Slovakia’s Erin Brockovich,” after waging a 14-year fight with a company that wanted to build an illegal landfill in her home town.
Liberal lawyer Zuzana Caputova has been elected Slovakia’s new President on Saturday, becoming the Central European country's first ever female head of state.
“I am happy not just for the result but mainly that it is possible not to succumb to populism, to tell the truth, to raise interest without aggressive vocabulary,” she told a crowd of supporters, which she thanked in Slovak, as well as in the Hungarian, Czech, Roma and Ruthenian languages.
The 45-year-old environmental, pro-EU, lawyer who champions gay rights and opposes Slovakia's ban on abortion, won over 58.3 percent of the votes ahead of Maros Sefcovic who took 41.7 percent. This victory counters a trend that has seen populist, anti-European Union politicians make gains across the continent.
The political novice faced European Commission Vice President Sefcovic in a second-round vote, after gaining 40 percent of the ballots in the first round two weeks ago. The 52-year-old, who came in a distant second in the first round with 18.7 percent of the vote, built his campaign on traditional family-oriented policies.
Sefcovic was backed by the ruling party Smer, the largest grouping in parliament that has dominated Slovak politics since 2006. While Caputova represented the Progressive Slovakia party— which she pledged to leave if elected— and was endorsed by opposition parties, as well as a junior party from the ruling coalition of the ethnic Hungarian minority.
THANK YOU!— Zuzana Čaputová (@ZuzanaCaputova) March 30, 2019
Even though she has little experience in politics, the president-elect built her campaign on a promise to fight corruption. A vow people got behind as she is known as “Slovakia’s Erin Brockovich,” after the American environmentalist portrayed by Julia Roberts in a 2000 film. This is due to the fact she waged a 14-year fight with a company that wanted to build an illegal landfill in her home town.
The firm was represented by Marian Kocner, who was charged, along with five other suspects, with the murders of Investigative Journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee in 2018. Kuciak became a symbol of perceived impunity after more than a decade of rule by Smer and ignited the biggest protests in Slovakia’s post-communist history forcing the resignation of Smer leader Robert Fico as prime minister last year.
Even though Slovakia’s president wields little day-to-day power, the position carries the authority to appoint prime ministers and veto appointments of senior prosecutors and judges, which complicates Fico’s plan to leave politics by becoming head of the Constitutional Court.