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Political Newcomer Vies To Become Slovakia's First Female President

Zuzana Caputova speaks to the press in Bratislava on March 4.
Zuzana Caputova speaks to the press in Bratislava on March 4.

Zuzana Caputova, an anticorruption campaigner with no previous experience in public office, appears to be the leading contender as Slovaks go to the polls to elect their next president.

The 45-year-old Caputova, a liberal civic lawyer with the Progresivne Slovensko party, could become her country's first female head of state if preelection polls prove correct and she can defeat the 12 other candidates in the March 16 vote and manage to do so with an absolute majority.

However, the high number of candidates could prevent any one candidate from clinching in the first round. Should no one receive above 50 percent, a March 30 runoff will be held between the top two candidates.

The eventual winner will be the country's fifth head of state since it gained independence in 1993 after Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two countries.

President Andrej Kiska is not running for a second five-year term in the largely ceremonial post.

Maros Sefcovic, 52, the EU's energy commissioner and a political independent backed by the ruling center-left Direction-Social Democracy (Smer-SD), appears to be the main challenger.

The election comes in the aftermath of the killing of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancee in February 2018. Thy two, both 27, were found shot dead at their home near the capital, Bratislava.

The journalist was investigating political corruption at the time of the slayings, which triggered the biggest street protests in Slovakia since the fall of communism in 1989 and a political crisis that led to the fall of former Prime Minister Robert Fico's government in March and slashed national support for Smer-SD.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, AFP, and Reuters