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Fresh Face Shakes Up Slovak Presidential Campaign

Zuzana Caputova is leading a field of old-guard pols with less than pristine reputations.

8 March 2019

An activist Slovak lawyer with no political experience is well ahead in the polls ahead of the first round of voting on 16 March.

 

If elected, Zuzana Caputova (pictured) would become one of few Central Europeans in recent times to unite urban elites and the regions in a successful campaign for high office.

 

Little known until joining the crowded field of candidates to replace Andrej Kiska, the popular incumbent who chose not to seek re-election, Caputova, 45, is known among fellow lawyers as “Slovakia’s Erin Brockovich” for helping defeat a planned landfill in her hometown, Reuters writes.

 

Slovak law prohibits the publication of poll results in the last 14 days before an election. Some polls taken before the deadline gave Caputova around 50 percent support, with European Commissioner Maros Sevcovic, the candidate of the ruling Smer-SD party, trailing far behind with 16 percent.

 

Support for the populist Smer-SD has eroded as a result of scandals, notably the alleged involvement of people close to former premier Robert Fico in organized-crime schemes uncovered by journalist Jan Kuciak, who was shot dead just over a year ago in an apparent contract killing.

 

“Slovakia shows signs of state capture: power is not carried out by those elected but by those pulling the strings from behind,” Caputova told Reuters.

 

“We have a problem with corruption, like other European countries, and with making those responsible accountable,” she went on. “But I see hope in people who take action, who protest and call for change.”

 

The chief editor of the independent news site Dennik N, Matus Kostolny, struggled to explain how the previously unknown Caputova so swiftly captured the public’s imagination. One reason, he told the Czech weekly Respekt, is that she has performed well in public debates, coming across as competent and calm.

 

Her social media savvy has also helped, together with major support from women, he said.

 

 

  • Fico, who left office last year amid mass public protests over the Kuciak slaying, is seeking to become a justice on the Constitutional Court. His chances would be minimal if Caputova is elected, Reuters says. One of few powers vested in the chiefly ceremonial presidency is the right to name judges and prosecutors.

 

  • If no candidate wins an outright majority in the first round, a second round will be held on 30 March.

 

  • A group of opposition lawmakers has lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court against a law prohibiting Slovaks abroad from voting in presidential elections, saying it prevents them from exercising a basic democratic right, the SITA news agency reports. Voters abroad are allowed to participate in parliamentary elections.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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We would like to invite you to meet Kathryn Thier, a recognized expert and instructor of Solutions Journalism from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.

 

Join us to learn more about the connections between investigative reporting and Solutions Journalism and discover the impact that bringing the “whole” story has on communities. Kathryn’s keynote speech will be followed by a panel discussion on bringing the solutions perspective into reporting practices with Nikita Poljakov, deputy editor in chief of the business daily Hospodářské noviny. Nikita is also head of the project “Nejsi sám” (You are not alone), which uses the solutions approach to tackle the issue of male suicide. The main program will be followed by an informal wine reception. 

 

The event will take place on Monday, 25 March at 5 p.m. in the Hollar building of the Charles University Faculty of Social Sciences (Smetanovo nábřeží 6, Praha 1). The event will be in English. 

 

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