Lawyer Zuzana Caputova will become Slovakia’s first female president after winning a runoff election on Saturday against the country’s ruling party’s candidate.
The vocal government critic whose campaign slogan was “stand up to evil” was largely unknown before she launched her presidential run in the eurozone member country of 5.4 million people.
Caputova, a pro-European Union political novice, won the election with 58.3 percent votes after results from 98.1 percent of voting districts were counted.
Official results are due on Sunday.
“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,” the 45-year-old environmental lawyer told a crowd of supporters.
Maros Sefcovic, who is backed by the ruling Smer party, secured 41.7 percent of the votes. Sefcovic, an establishment figure who is the European Commission vice president, conceded defeat and congratulated his rival.
Caputova won the ballot thanks in part to voter disillusionment with the governing coalition a year after the murder of a journalist investigating high-level corruption plunged the country into crisis.
She was among the tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets after Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova were shot at home in February 2018.
Kuciak was about to publish a report on alleged ties between Slovak politicians and the Italian mafia when he was killed.
The then-Prime Minister Robert Fico was forced to resign but he remains the leader of the ruling party and is a close ally of current premier Peter Pellegrini.
The European Parliament has urged Slovakia to look into “any possible political links to the crimes”.
MEPs voiced “concern about the allegations of corruption, conflicts of interest, impunity and revolving doors in Slovakia’s circles of power”.
Speaking to the AFP news agency on the campaign trail, Caputova said she would “initiate systematic changes that would deprive prosecutors and the police of political influence”.
Caputova, who gave up the membership of the non-parliamentary party Progressive Slovakia before the runoff, has vowed to fight for justice for all and has also promised better care for the elderly and environmental protection.
She is in favour of gay rights and opposes a ban on abortion in the conservative Roman Catholic country.
She becomes Slovakia’s fifth president since the country gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.