Slovak "Erin Brockovich" candidate wins first round of presidential elections

Zuzana Caputova, a lawyer and an environmental activist, convincingly won the first round of Slovakia's presidential election with 40.57% of votes
By Nelly Tomcikova in Prague March 18, 2019

Zuzana Caputova, a lawyer and an environmental activist who has been nicknamed “Erin Brockovich”, won the first round of the Slovak presidential elections, held on March 16, with 40.57% of votes, followed by Smer-SD's Maros Sefcovic with 18.66%. Both candidates have made it into the presidential election run-off.

The turnout reached 48.74%, with the highest regional turnout in Bratislava region at 58.88%. Caputova came first in 71 districts, Sefcovic won in seven districts, and third placed Sefan Harabin in one district in his native northeastern Slovakia.

The first round showed that 60% of voters share Sefcovic’s worldview, when considering attitudes towards migrants, mandatory quotas, said the European Commissioner for television TA3 on March 17. “I've been fighting against this, while Mrs Caputova was rather in favour. This is also about priorities in social policies. The election has shown that 60% of people have different opinion from Mrs Caputova,” he said. 

“I've grown used during the campaign to being assigned labels inconsistent with my values and worldview. Welcoming migrants and cultural and ethical topics, these are only labels. I don't believe that you believe this as much as you know me. There will be room to explain this to each other,” Caputova replied during the debate.

“I don’t want to fight evil as presented by my opponent, as such an approach introduces division between good and evil creating dividing lines. I want to unite,” Sefcovic addressed Caputova’s slogans“When speaking about evil, I mean phenomena such as corruption and misuse of one’s power. I don't mean any individuals here,” was Caputova’s response.

According to Sefcovic, Slovakia shouldn't be described as “a burned land”, stressing that “prosecutors and police have increased their pace and effectiveness lately,” with a reference to latest investigation into the journalist Jan Kuciak’s murder.

The political analyst Darina Malova thinks Caputova has to identify her real voters first. “The voters behind Ms Caputova are the types of voters calling for a change. Aside from change and non-confrontation, people simply trust her and have identified with her,” Malova said to the Slovak News Agency (SNA), adding that Caputova’s strength lies in the fact that she offers a certain “love-thy-neighbour” feeling.

While Sefcovic, according to Malova, has been projecting an air of indecisiveness. “His team hasn't profiled its candidate comprehensively enough. Furthermore, he chose relatively resonant social rhetoric for his campaign. He promoted social solidarity among generations,” she claimed. Malova perceives his limitation in his European Commissioner post, due to, which he cannot criticise the EU. Sefcovic will try to reach out to Smer-SD and the junior governing party Slovak National Party (SNS) voters if he can be more convincing on social issues.

The results of the other candidates who didn't make it into the second round were: Stefan Harabin with 14.34%, Marian Kotleba 10.39%, Frantisek Miklosko with 5.72%, Bela Bugar with 3.1%, Milan Krajniak with 2.77%, Eduard Chmelar with 2.74%, Martin Dano, Robert Svec, Juraj Zabojnik, Ivan Zuzula, and Bohumila Tauchmannova each reaching less than 0.5%.

“I'm sorry to see that people again haven't evaluated individual candidates according to their actions, but rather according to promises, big talk and media coverage,” said far-right People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) chair Marian Kotleba, SNA reported, adding his party will now focus on the European Parliament elections held in May.

According to AKO polling agency analyst Vaclav Hrich, 25-30% of people who voted for unsuccessful candidates in the first round are undecided who to vote in the run-off in two weeks. Voters of anti-system candidates Harabin, a former justice minister of Vladimir Meciar, and Kotleba who received a combined 25% are very likely to be key ‘decision-makers’ of the second round, Hrich said, reporting.

The first-round results are the good news for international investors, said the Czech Fund Chief Economist Lukas Kovanda, online reported. Neither of the candidates question or criticise Slovakia's membership in EU, NATO and Eurozone. “Markets understand this as continuation of current fundamental international-political and international-economic anchoring of Slovakia, including economic continuity. Therefore, there is no uncertainty over the future orientation of the country,” he added.

Both candidates perceive results as a call for change and a call to calm the situation in Slovakia. The presidential election run-off is scheduled for March 30.