Freedom of the Press campaigner Zuzana Caputova – known as the Erin Brockovich of Slovakia – has decisively won the first round of Slovakia’s presidential election.
Lawyer and anti-corruption battler Ms Caputova has taken more than 40pc with Maros Sefcovic, of the ruling Smer-SD party, only getting 19pc. As no candidate won more than 50pc, a second-round run-off will be held. Turnout was just under 50pc.
A member of the tiny Progressive Slovakia party, which has no seats in parliament, she is a newcomer but her conservative 52-year-old opponent is vice-president of the European Commission.
Ms Caputova made her name at mass protests following the murder of a journalist who had been investigating political corruption. Slovakia has seen large anti-government rallies following the murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée in February last year.
The protests prompted Prime Minister Robert Fico to resign.
Ms Caputova also led a battle for 14 years against an illegal landfill. She is often referred to as the Erin Brockovich of Slovakia.
If Ms Caputova, a 45 year-old mother of two, wins the second round in two weeks, she will become Slovakia’s first female president.
“I see the message from voters as a strong call for change,” she said.
Her slogan ‘Let’s fight evil together’ has captured the imagination of voters. She says she wants to overhaul a justice system she claims benefit politicians.
Her recent performance represents a rare victory for liberal forces in central Europe, which has seen a series of victories by populist and nationalist parties in the last decade.
She stands for justice saying “justice in Slovakia does not always apply equally to everyone”. Ms Caputova also fights for penioners, women’s rights and LGBGT issues.