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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Zuzana Caputov set to become the new young President of Slovakia


Elections are always keenly watched ~ India’s is expecting that Modiji will sweep the polls again .. .. in a campaign, Udayanidhi Stalin introduced a candidate as ‘azhagu’ (beautiful) ! ~  miles away, within a day of her election, Zuzana Caputova was being hailed as savior of liberalism. Caputova, who will be the first female president of Slovakia, was a political newcomer but not new to pushing for policy change. Described in headlinesas a “liberal lawyer,” she became known for her fight to shut down a toxic waste dump that was putting poison in her hometown, earning her the moniker “the Erin Brockovich of Slovakia.” She campaigned as a pro-Western liberal and has said she would use her platform as president to bring greater transparency to Slovakia.

Pezinok  is a city in southwestern Slovakia. It is roughly 20 km (12.43 mi) northeast of Bratislava. Pezinok lies near the Little Carpathians and thrives mainly on viticulture (growing vine) and agriculture, as well as on brick making and ceramic(s) production.Slovakia is a landlocked country in Central Europe, bordered by Poland, Ukraine, Hungary  and the Czech Republic.  The capital and largest city is Bratislava, and the official language is Slovak.

The Slavs arrived in the territory of present-day Slovakia in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 7th century, they played a significant role in the creation of Samo's Empire and in the 9th century established the Principality of Nitra, which was later conquered by the Principality of Moravia to establish Great Moravia. A separate (First) Slovak Republic (1939–1945) existed during World War II as a totalitarian, clero-fascist one-party client state of Nazi Germany. At the end of World War II, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent country. A coup in 1948 ushered in a totalitarian one-party state under the Communist regime during whose rule the country existed as a satellite of the Soviet Union.  Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce.

Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy with a very high Human Development Index.  The country joined the European Union in 2004 and joined the Eurozone in  2009.  In 2018, Slovak citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 179 countries and territories, ranking the Slovak passport 10th in the world. Slovakia is the world's largest per-capita car producer with a total of 1,040,000 cars manufactured in the country in 2016 alone.

Presidential elections were held in Slovakia on 16 March 2019, with the run-off on 30 March. Incumbent President Andrej Kiska did not run for a second term.Fifteen candidates contested the first round, of which two later formally withdrew their bids before voting took place, but their names still had to remain on the ballot papers. Zuzana Čaputová of the Progressive Slovakia party finished ahead of the other candidates, receiving 40.6% of the votes, but failed to achieve the necessary threshold of 50%+1 vote from all registered voters to avoid a run-off. Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-President of the European Commission for the Energy Union, who was running as an independent supported by the Smer-SD party, came in as the runner-up with 18.7% of the vote and earned a place in the run-off as well.

In the second round, Čaputová won election to the presidency, garnering 58.4% of the vote to Šefčovič's 41.6%. She has become the first woman to be elected to the position and will become Slovakia's youngest-ever president at 45 years of age.

She first became known by prevailing in a decade-long struggle against the situation of a toxic landfill in her hometown of Pezinok. For this, she was awarded the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize.Despite having almost no political experience, the 45-year old lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner has defeated  the European Commission Vice President MarosSefcovic. The political newcomer soared to popularity in just a few months with a campaign that focused on a struggle for justice.The president is mostly a ceremonial role in the country of 5.4 million, as Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini is responsible for overseeing the government. But when Caputova takes office in June, she will have important blocking powers, will be the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and will have power to appoint top judges.

Caputova built her campaign on a vow to fight corruption, by stripping the police and prosecutors of their political influence. Last year’s murder of the investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova has put the issue of political corruption at the forefront of public discussion. And Caputova said Kuciak’s murder was the reason she decided to run for president.Kuciak, who had worked to expose corruption among the political elite was shot and killed in February 2018. Five people were charged with the murder, including a millionaire with alleged links to the center-left political party, Smer. Kuciak’s death sparked anti-government protests attracting tens of thousands of people, which eventually forced Prime Minister and Smer leader Robert Fico to step down. The party is still the largest in the national parliament, however, and Pellegrini is its prime minister.

Caputova’s liberal values also appealed to younger voters in a country where same-sex marriage is not yet legal. Caputova is in favour of same-sex unions and has said that LGBT adoption is better than leaving children in orphanages. On the question of abortion, she said she believes it is a woman’s right to make that decision.Corruption among officials was also a core concern. Caputova’s election is a rare progressive victory in central Europe where nationalist rhetoric has grown over the past few years. In neighboring Hungary, Poland and Austria, governments are dominated by right-wing, nationalist parties. In these countries and elsewhere, liberal parties have struggled to counter populist leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orban whose campaigns focus on migration and social issues.

Caputova’s victory, which came on a low turnout of 40 percent, is likely to be only the beginning of the fight for the progressive left in Slovakia. The European Parliament’s elections in May and the parliamentary elections next year will be the real test of the movement’s strength.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd Apr 2019.

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