A lawyer and activist who campaigned on an anti-corruption platform but refused to engage in personal attacks against her opponents has become Slovakia’s first female president.
Zuzana Caputova’s sweeping victory was a strong rebuke to the ethnic nationalist and populist movements that have risen to power in Slovakia in recent years. It was all the more remarkable for her political inexperience — Caputova had never run for office, and hadn’t even considered running for president until about a year ago. She said she was inspired to run by the waves of protests that followed the assassination of a young journalist in February 2018 — a hit intended to stop his investigations into government corruption.
Her insurgency as a liberal candidate determined to rout out Slovakia’s toxic graft earned her the nickname “the Erin Brockovich of Slovakia.”
Addressing throngs of supporters following her win, she promised a new era of responsible government. “Maybe we thought that justice and fairness in politics were signs of weakness,” she said. “Today, we see that they are actually our strengths. We thought that the barrier between conservative and liberal is unbreakable, but we managed to do it.”
Caputova had made the unorthodox vow to relinquish her party membership should she be elected to prove that she had no interest in leading a new political machine. The move stood in stark contrast to the politicians she defeated, whose anti-migrant and anti-E.U. rhetoric many had come to see as a cover for their rampant corruption.
A divorced mother of two teenage daughters, her presidency is beginning with high hopes.
“I don’t remember a situation when skilled politicians have been confronted by anyone who would speak as openly, directly and normally as Zuzana Caputova,” wrote the editor of one of the country’s daily newspapers.
Read more at the New York Times.