Every once in a while, decency triumphs. On Saturday, Zuzana Caputova overwhelmingly won Slovakia’s presidential election, beating an opponent backed by the governing party to become the nation’s first woman president.
In front of her supporters Saturday evening, Caputova promised to fight corruption: “Maybe we thought that justice and fairness in politics were signs of weakness,” she said, according to the New York Times. “Today, we see that they are actually our strengths. We thought that the barrier between conservative and liberal is unbreakable, but we managed to do it.”
Caputova, a 45-year-old lawyer, entered the presidential race last year after the high-profile killing of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova. The two were allegedly shot by a hit man trying to stop Kuciak’s investigation into government corruption. The assassination prompted Caputova and tens of thousands of Slovaks to protest Slovakia’s corrupt, anti-migrant, anti-European Union leadership. Caputova campaigned on the slogan “Let’s fight evil together” and championed transparency in government, as well as abortion and LGBTQ rights. (In Slovakia, same-sex marriage is illegal).
Caputova began her activism in the late 90s, when she tried to stop an illegal dump from poisoning her hometown. Her organizing efforts led to huge street demonstrations. She stopped the dump—and also won the esteemed Goldman Prize for environmental activism.
In victory, she sounded an optimistic note. “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.” In a nod to the nation’s ethnic minorities, she delivered her acceptance speech not just in Slovak, but in Hungarian, Czech, Roma, and Ruthenian.
At the end of election night, Caputova lit a candle in memory of the slain journalist and his fiancée, Kuciak and Kusnirova.
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