Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Zuzana Caputova, liberal environmental activist, becomes Slovakia’s first female president

"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."

Image Credit: Petr David Josek/AP Photo

On Saturday, Slovakia elected its first female president, a liberal environmentalist and political newcomer. Zuzana Caputova won the presidential election with 58 percent of the vote beating Maros Sefcovic, a diplomat supported by Slovakia’s Smer-Social Democracy party.

Caputova was elected Slovakia’s fifth president since gaining its independence in 1993, NPR reported, and will take office in June.

“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,” Caputova said in her acceptance speech.

With corruption running rampant through Slovakia especially in the Smer-Social Democracy party, a majority of voters have been outspoken against the national rhetoric and protested after an investigative journalist – who exposed the country’s corruption – and his fiance were assassinated. Caputova was an active participant in the largest protests the country has seen since the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and established herself as the anti-corruption candidate with the campaign slogan, “stand up to evil,” NPR reported.

Caputova first became popular, earning the nickname “Erin Brockovich of Slovakia,” after she campaigned for longer than a decade against the construction of a new waste dump in Pezinok –bher hometown – after the current dump, which was spewing toxins and causing health issues to residents, reached capacity so the owners were keen on building a second dump of its kind. Eventually, the Slovakian Supreme Court “declared the new dump illegal,” EcoWatch reported, and Caputova won the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize for her continued effort to promote civil society throughout her campaign against the dumps.

Now, newly elected president, many Slovenians are optimistic Caputova will be the answer to dismantle the political establishment in Slovakia and that much of Eastern Europe has encountered as of recent.

“I am an optimist,” she said. “Someone who believes and hopes that change is possible.”

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