Liberal environmental lawyer and government critic Zuzana Caputova has defeated her opponent by a wide margin to become Slovakia’s first female president.
With nearly all the ballots counted early on March 31, Caputova had 58.4 percent of the vote in the runoff election. Maros Sefcovic, an independent backed by the ruling Direction-Social Democracy (Smer-SD) party, had 41.6 percent.
Sefcovic, a European Commission vice president and a former member of the Communist Party, conceded to Caputova just before midnight on March 30. Sefcovic is also considered pro-Europe but has said Slovakia should retain some decision-making powers for itself.
Sefcovic congratulated Caputova on her victory.
Caputova thanked voters in a speech she gave in Slovak, Czech, Hungarian, and the language of the Romany minority.
She told supporters she saw her election as a signal for change.
Caputova’s victory bucked a trend that has seen populist, anti-European Union politicians make gains across the continent.
Caputova won the election’s first round two weeks ago with more than 40 percent of the vote. Sefcovic secured more than 18 percent.
Corruption and change have been the main themes ahead of the runoff vote, which takes place a year after journalist Jan Kuciak, who investigated high-profile fraud cases, and his fiancee were murdered at their home.
Five people have been charged with the murders of Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova.
The killings ignited the biggest protests in Slovakia's postcommunist history.
Caputova campaigned to end what she calls the capture of the state "by people pulling strings from behind.”
Slovakia's president wields little day-to-day power but appoints prime ministers and can veto appointments of senior prosecutors and judges.