Will Slovakia have its first female president?
Peter Sterančák / March 17, 2019
(2 min read)
These seem to be the only two possible options after the first round of presidential elections on Saturday 16, 2019. Zuzana Čaputová (read: tschaputova) won the first round with 40.6 % of the vote (870 415 votes), while Maroš Šefčovič (read: marosh chef-tchovitch), the candidate of the ruling party, secured only 18.7% (400 379).
With such a gap before the second round, Čaputová is set on course to become the first female president in the history of Slovakia. However, nothing is completely certain yet, since it is not clear for whom will the voters of Štefan Harabin (3rd place, 14.4%), and Marián Kotleba (4th place, 10.4%) vote for in the second round. Both candidates fragmented the vote of far-right conservatives.
Many political analysts say that the results are a clear sign of the call for change in Slovak politics. The landslide victory of Zuzana Čaputová, who has a clear anti-government stance, on the one hand and the strong support for far-right candidates such as Harabin and Kotleba on the other suggest that the Slovak public is fed up with the current political situation in Slovakia.
Therefore, Maroš Šefčovič, being the only candidate of the government coalition left standing, will have a hard time convincing voters that he is not the candidate of the current political establishment. Currently the European commissioner by profession, Šefčovič is critiqued for being too detached from Slovak society to understand its mood and nuances. There is also a big sense of resentment towards the European Union, which is generally manifested in the anti-establishment voters of Harabin and Kotleba. It is unclear how – if at all – Šefčovič will address those voters. Many analysts also pointed out that Šefčovič displayed a very unconvincing impression during debates especially when asked on his opinion of alleged corruption cases of the ruling party, SMER-SD, that nominated him.
On the other hand, Zuzana Čaputová, a lawyer and environmental activist, as well as a vice-chairman of the newly created extra-parliamentary party Progressive Slovakia is said to represent the democratic wing of anti-system forces. Hence, she can gather the votes of the undemocratic anti-establishment voters more easily on the basis of her campaign slogans, such as "For a just Slovakia", or "Against corruption and the abuse of the power by the powerful". She profited from the resignation of Róbert Mistrík, an independent candidate with political support from the largest opposition party Sloboda a Solidarita (Freedom and Solidarity) which he helped to establish years ago. Two months before the election Mistrík was the strongest candidate in the polls. Čaputová and Mistrík had similar value orientation; both consider themselves as liberal and democratic with a strong pro-western orientation, although Mistrík leaned more towards the conservative side of the value spectrum. After his resignation Čaputová's preferences skyrocketed. She jumped from being practically unknown to the Slovak public to being the strongest candidate just few weeks before the election (in November she polled at 4.1%).
Sociologist Michal Vašečka sees also her physical beauty and representative looks, as one of the reasons she gained so much popularity. "We (Slovaks) like to be seen as beautiful and representative in the international community", he said. Čaputová also impressed in television debates during the last weeks of her campaign. She kept saying she would not personally attack other opponents and restrained from employing too much populistic rhetoric. This fact could also contribute to her popularity since "before, politics in Slovakia was seen as a ring for Alpha males and she brought a new culture into the debates", Vašečka added.
The second round of the presidential elections will be held on 30 March 2019. Thus, we need to wait two weeks to see who will be the next Slovak president for the upcoming five years.