The murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova in February 2018 not only spurred huge civic protests but also led to a political change in Slovakia.
Voters in the country’s 2019 presidential election made a political statement by casting votes that favored a political newcomer and known environment lawyer, Zuzana Caputova. The number of votes demonstrated the nation’s determination to make political reforms happen and the desire to rid the government of political corruption. The overwhelming number of votes in favor of Caputova, denied the ruling party Smer, the chance to install as president Maroš Šefčovič, a Vice President at the European Commission.
Prior to the holding of the 2019 presidential election, outgoing president Andrej Kiska had announced that he will not be seeking for a new term in office. At the time of the announcement, surveys showed that Kiska was the politician most Slovakians trusted. Many were of the opinion that had the former president presented himself as candidate, he might have won another term in the presidential office.
Still, the people was presented with another choice. There was Zuzana Caputova, a pro-European liberal who made a vow to carry out the struggle for justice and the fight against government corruption. the very core of slain Jan Kuciak’s investigations. In declaring her presidential bid, Ms. Caputova announced that the gunning down of Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, made her decide to run for presidency despite her lack of political experience.
As the turn of events has it, Zuzana Caputova, the 45-year old liberal candidate and member of the non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia party, became the country’s first woman president.
Zuzana Caputova: Education and Professional Background in Brief
Zuzana Caputova is an award winning lawyer who earned the Goldman Environmental prize in 2016. The recognition was bestowed for her participation through leadership, in a successful campaign against an influential land developer who had plans of setting up a toxic landfill in her hometown. The feat also earned her the title “Erin Brockovich of Slovakia.”
Coming from a working class family, Zuzana grew up in Pezinok in what she describes as an open-minded household, which helped shaped her liberal views. Regarding the LGBT sector, she sees same-sex marriage as better than sending “at risk” children to orphanages. On the matter of abortion, she believes that every woman has the right to make such a decision.
After completing her studies at Comenius University Faculty of Law in Bratislava, she found work at Pezinok’s local government, first as a legal aide and later as deputy assistant to the town mayor. She then went on to work in the non-profit sector; for organizations like the Open Society Foundation which dealt with issues of child abuse and exploitation, the EQ Klub, a civic association addressing local community development, and world-renowned environmentalist group, Greenpeace.
Čaputová furthered her career by establishing her own law firm and by becoming a fellow of a network of environmental lawyers called the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW).