Saturday

10th Dec 2022

Anti-corruption lawyer wins first round of Slovak elections

  • Zuzana Caputova has become the front runner in Slovakia's presidential race (Photo: Wikimedia)

An anti-corruption lawyer running on a liberal platform has won the first round in Slovakia's presidential election, as voters punish the ruling Smer party a year after the murder of an investigative journalist.

The 45-year old environmental campaigner, Zuzana Caputova, won 40.5 percent of the votes on Saturday (16 March), well ahead of EU commission vice-president and Smer-backed candidate Maros Sefcovic who received 18.7 percent of the votes.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Their run-off will be on 30 March.

Slovak voters embraced Caputova's pro-European liberal message in what seems to be a backlash against rising national populism across Europe.

It is currently rare for a candidate promoting liberal democracy to be winning in the region, where a turn towards an authoritarian style of governing has been dominating politics in Hungary and Poland, and had an impact in neighbouring countries.

Slovakia's president does not hold power over the day-to-day political affairs of the country, but holds veto power over key appointments of prosecutors and judges,

Caputova, who hails from the small, non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia party, told supporters on Saturday that she sees a "strong call for change in this election following the tragic events last spring and a very strong public reaction".

"We stand at a crossroads between the loss and renewal of public trust, also in terms of Slovakia's foreign policy orientation," she said, according to Reuters.

Last February the murder of a young investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his finance, who was reporting on fraud cases involving politically well-connected businessmen triggered the biggest anti-government protests in Slovakia since the fall of communism there decades earlier.

The demonstrations led to the reluctant resignation of Smer leader and prime minister Robert Fico. A weakened Smer remained in power.

Two days before the first round of votes, special prosecutors said they had charged businessman Marian Kocner, a subject of Kuciak's reporting, with ordering the murder.

Caputova has had her own run-ins with Kocner, when Caputova spearheaded a campaign against a landfill site, which Kocner was involved in. The site was finally ordered to be closed after a 2015 European Court of Justice ruling.

Caputova, who has held no elected office before, was the target of an "intense disinformation campaign" according to Slovak think tank Globsec.

Sefcovic, who is taking an unpaid leave of absence from his commission job to run in Slovakia's presidential elections, could now turn to the right in the run-up to the second round.

Sefcovic could try to tap into the overall 25 per cent of votes cast for Stefan Harabin, a populist who campaigned against foreigners and Brussels, and far-right Marian Kotleba, who have railed against Muslim migrants threatening Europe and Christianity and advocated closer ties with Russia.

Smer-leader Fico could also push Sefcovic to take a harder line in the next few weeks, putting the Slovak EU politician - who is not a Smer member and himself has a reputation for a moderate in Brussels - in an awkward position.

Exclusive

Sefcovic campaign videos feature fellow commissioners

Maros Sefcovic, commission vice-president in charge of Energy Union, is running to be president of Slovakia. Now two of his fellow EU commissioners have endorsed him - raising questions about their independence.

Slovak PM at risk over journalist murder

A junior party in prime minister Robert Fico's coalition has threatened to walk away unless he takes more drastic action over the killing of a reporter.

Feature

How a Romani woman got a hug from an ultra-right voter

Slovakia goes to the polls on Saturday (30 March) to elect a new president. A chance encounter between a Roma woman and a supporter of the ultra-right Our Slovakia party offers a case study in how bridges can be built.

Opinion

No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU

The European Commission has asked the member states' leaders assembling in Brussels next week for the customary end-of-year European Council to approve EU candidate status for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doing so would be a mistake.

Exclusive

Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, is currently drawing a pension from a European Parliament fund that is some €400m in debt and may require a taxpayer bailout at a time of rising inflation and high energy costs.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission silent on Greek spyware sale to Madagascar
  2. A plea to the EU from inside Tehran's Evin jail
  3. EU lets Croatia into Schengen, keeps Bulgaria and Romania out
  4. Energy crisis costs thousands of EU jobs, but industrial output stable
  5. Illegal pushbacks happening daily in Croatia, says NGO
  6. No, Bosnia and Herzegovina is not ready for the EU
  7. EU takes legal action against China over Lithuania
  8. EU Commission shoring up children's rights of same-sex parents

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us