Liberal Woman Lawyer Heads for Slovak Election Runoff Challenge - EcoFinBiz Blog

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Liberal Woman Lawyer Heads for Slovak Election Runoff Challenge

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(Bloomberg) -- A liberal woman lawyer propelled by voters’ anger about corruption secured a landslide victory in the first round of Slovakia’s presidential election, heading for a showdown with a top European Union official in a runoff ballot.

Zuzana Caputova’s striking lead signals a counterpoint to nationalist populism in eastern Europe, where governments in Hungary, Poland and Romania have clashed with the EU over democratic standards. The activist lawyer will face European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic in the decisive vote on March 30.

Known for stopping an illegal landfill in Slovakia’s wine region, Caputova rose to political prominence after the murder of an investigative journalist last year stoked popular revulsion and triggered the biggest anti-government protests since the fall of communism in 1989.

The result of Saturday’s vote is “a signal that people want a change,” Caputova told reporters, adding the support she got shows that Slovaks are ready to accept as president someone “new to politics, who comes with different solutions.”

Caputova’s embrace of gay rights and her pledge to “fight the evil together” resonated with Slovaks, whose last year’s demonstrations forced Smer leader Robert Fico to resign as prime minister.

Read more: How a Reporter’s Murder Forced Out Slovakia’s Premier

Caputova, a divorced mother of two, led residents in a fight against an illegal landfill in the western Slovak town of Pezinok, the heart of the country’s wine-producing region. She got 40.5 percent of votes in the first round held on Saturday, based on nearly complete results, while Sefcovic mustered a support of 18.7 percent voters. Opinion polls published ahead of the first round showed she would win the runoff.

While Slovakia’s president has limited powers, the head of state has a key role in granting politicians mandates to form a government and in appointing judges.

Slovaks generally support the EU, where Sefcovic has been the country’s most visible figure. But his performance in the ballot has been hurt by the endorsement of Fico’s ruling party, still reeling from its popularity decline last year.

The 52-year-old Sefcovic emphasized his experience, social-oriented agenda and Christian values in his first post-election televised address.

“We will start all over again tomorrow,” he said. “My offer for citizens still holds: I will use all experience that I have gained abroad, all contacts.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Radoslav Tomek in Bratislava at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at, Peter Laca

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