Slovakia is Making History with its First Ever Female President

On Sunday, 31 March 2019, the Slovak electoral commission confirmed that Zuzana Caputova was elected the fifth president and the first female president of the country, marking a turning point in Slovakia’s future.

A look at Slovakia

On 1 January 1993, Slovakia became independent from Czechoslovakia which had  been under communist rule between 1948 and 1989.

Today, Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy with a high rate of development, high standard of living, favorable civil liberties, press freedom, internet freedom, democratic governance and peacefulness.

The country has a market economy with an extensive social security system—citizens are provided universal health care, free education, and one of the longest paid parental leave periods. Slovakia joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.

Slovakia is still a predominantly conservative country, and seven previous referendums concerning gay marriage and rights were fruitless. Ethnic poverty is also still prevalent, especially for the Roma, who are considered the poorest and most marginalized group in the country, living in ghettos or shanty towns.

Slovakia is a land-locked country in central Europe of 19,000 square miles with a population of 5.4 million. The region is mostly mountainous with 9 national parks, 77 rivers, 183 lakes, and winter temperatures dropping below −20°C.

Its capital and largest city is Bratislava with a population of 650,000. It is the political, cultural and economic center of Slovakia, the seat of the Slovak president and parliament, and receives over a million tourists every year.

In 2017, Bratislava was ranked the third wealthiest region of the European Union. Slovakia, along with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, makes up the ‘Visegrad’ or ‘V4’, a cultural and political alliance for the advancement of economic, military and cultural cooperation.

Zuzana Caputova

Caputova is a lawyer who gained national prominence for her work on a 14-year long case against an illegal landfill for which she won the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize.

Divorced with two children at the age of 45, she will not only be Slovakia’s first female president, she will also be the youngest in the country’s history. Caputova will be sworn in on June 15th  when the tenure of current President Andrej Kiska expires.

Caputova’s political career was sparked by the murder of friend and reporter Jan Kuciak who was shot at home with his fiancée in February 2018. Kuciak was investigating links between politicians and organized crime at the time of his murder.

Caputova gave Kuciak’s murder as one of the main reasons she decided to run with crime being a prominent issue on her political agenda. With little previous political experience, Caputova announced her bid for the 2019 presidential race on March 29th, 2018.

In a country where LGBTQ rights are minimal and same-sex marriage is still illegal, Caputova’s liberal views have been welcomed, and she is an outspoken advocate of these and minority rights.

In the address following the official confirmation of her election to president, Caputova spoke of long-forgotten values that she intends to bring back to Slovakia—compassion, tolerance, and truth. Largely a ceremonial role in the Slovakia government system, the hope is that Caputova will use her new-found clout as president to effect real change in the country.

An environmentalist, LGBTQ advocate, and crime fighter, Caputova has strong ethics to lead Slovakia forward. While traditional family structure and values are still the majority view in Slovakia, the fact that Caputova won the election with 58% of the vote shows that the country has embraced the more modern and liberal ideals that she stands for.

Luckily, she only has 42% left to convince.

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