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Slovak presidential election’s outcome indicates falling government support, increasing likelihood of triggering snap election before 2020 poll

03 April 2019
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President-elect Zuzana Caputová casts her vote next to her family at a polling station on 30 March 2019 in the town of Pezinok. Source: Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Liberal and independent opposition candidate Zuzana Čaputová on 30 March won the second round of the presidential election, with 58.3% of votes, defeating ruling Smer-SD-backed Maroš Šefčovič, with 41.7%.

The victory of Čaputová, a political outsider, indicates voters’ likely fatigue with the ruling Smer-SD party, improving the opposition’s prospects in the parliamentary election currently scheduled to be held by March 2020. Zuzana Čaputová is a lawyer and environmental activist, and had not been engaged in politics until her successful presidential run. Her campaign, based on the slogan “Stand up to evil”, reached out to the “For Decent Slovakia” movement, which staged massive protests after the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée in February 2018. Despite having limited ability to influence government policies (the Slovak president has limited constitutional powers over policy-making), the president-elect is likely to prioritise environmental and pro-EU issues, demonstrating the divergence of opinions between her and the outgoing administration.

  • The presidential election results indicate a rise in support for anti-system, anti-EU candidates, a shift in sentiment on which Smer-SD will likely attempt to capitalise ahead of the parliamentary election. The turnout for the second round of the election proved low – 41.8% in comparison to 48.7% in the first round. This is most likely due to the fact that many anti-system, anti-EU voters did not attend the second round of the election, discouraged by the limited choice between liberal Čaputová and her EU-affiliated opponent, EU commissioner Šefčovič. Nevertheless, anti-system and Eurosceptic candidates – Štefan Harabin and Marian Kotleba, the head of the nationalist People's Party Our Slovakia (Ľudová strana – Naše Slovensko: LSNS) – received almost 25% of the vote in the first round. A high support for Eurosceptic parties (especially LSNS) in the next parliamentary election would likely contribute to a fragmented parliament, limiting the scope of the anti-Smer-SD coalition.

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