Voters rally to presidential frontrunner whose pro-LGBT stance has fuelled rightwing conspiracy machine
Disbelief and a hint of panic flashed across Zuzana Caputova’s face as the report broke.
After excusing to the Guardian how she would bolster the rule of ordinance in Slovakia if elected chairman, Caputova, a 45 -year-old lawyer and the frontrunner in Saturday’s presidential poll, unexpectedly stopped short as an aide-de-camp read out a headline from his phone: Marian Kocner, a multi-millionaire tycoon, had been charged with requiring the assassination ofJan Kuciak, a journalist who was investigating organised crime.
” Wow, I’m surprised, because I was on an opposing line-up in a law come into conflict with Marian Kocner ,” she said, startled momentarily into speaking in English, when she had previously been contacting through a translator.
The killings in February last year of Kuciak, a reporter with Actuality SK website, and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, precipitated widespread abhorrence and inspired Caputova to run for office after millions of Slovaks took to the streets asking the political developments and an end to corruption.
News of service charges against Kocner seemed to show hope for her sect in the influence of popular participation to upshot change.” People actually necessitate exhibit and confirmation that these things will be investigated and that the courts will be served to regain confidence in the process ,” said Caputova, who has urged the general public to get involved in public life to prolong liberal democracy.
Caputova was practically unheard of until recently, but her soothing word of propriety and civility- inspired, she says, by Gandhi’s book The Story of My Experiments With Truth, and by her political superstar, the late former Czechoslovak president and anti-communist heretic Vaclav Havel- has spurred her into a commanding lead over a large province of candidates, leaving her heavily spared to triumph an expected second-round ballot on 30 March.
Voters have rallied to her despite her publicly declared tolerance of LGBT rights such as civil the associations and support, controversial posts in a primarily Catholic country that forestalls same-sex union and is well known for conservative attitudes.
The election of such an avowedly pro-western illustration, who honestly spares the Nato alliance and EU membership, would accommodate welcome succour to radicals at a time when neighboring countries, namely, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, are led by populist legislators of going stripes.
Slovaks point out that Caputova would cut a distinguishing profile with the Czech Republic’s pro-Moscow, migrant-baiting chairperson Milos Zeman- announcing it a rare role-reversal in the relationship between the two countries that were once are joined in the former Czechoslovakia before its serene disintegration into separate independent states in 1993.
” When the Czech Republic connected Nato and the EU in the 1990 s, we were left behind and[ onetime US secretary of state] Madeleine Albright called us the black hole of Europe ,” said Michal Katuska, a major correspondent and presenter at Slovak national radio.” But now it looks like Slovakia is increasingly becoming, in community terms, the half-eyed person among the blind .”
Caputova, nonetheless, cautioned that her election could be a double-edged sword, affording rightwingers with a stick to beat radicals.” I do believe that my election can serve as an revelation or motivation to some elsewhere ,” she said.” But it could also employ the other way around .”
Yet, less than 48 hours before ballots opened, official affirmation of Kocner’s supposed participation in a crime that had already seen four other parties charged with carnage evoked darker speculations, as Caputova reflected on her past job as an activist-lawyer and the possibility that it had uncovered her to possible danger.
The pair faced off when Caputova use her law knowledge to grown the driving force behind a nine-year tenants’ campaign against a landfill locate, in which Kocner was involved, in her hometown of Pezinok, near Bratislava, the Slovak capital, which regionals said leaked cancer-causing toxins.
The landfill was sought closed in 2015 after a European court of justice decision, making Caputova the prestigious the Goldman environmental prize and analogies with Erin Brockovich, the campaigning advocate played by Julia Roberts in an Oscar-winning Hollywood film.
” The identifies that are resurfacing in connection with this[ Kuciak] action are those I remember from my time in Pezinok ,” she said, speaking in her campaign headquarters in the offices of the recently formed Progressive Slovakia party, of which she is vice-chair, although she is officially running independently.
” I previously knew that this is a high-stakes and very dangerous game. But perhaps it is only today that I fully appreciate how high-risk everything there is was. Even back then, he[ Kocner] didn’t have a very good stature. But this is something entirely different when it comes to the severity of the crime that he is charged with .”
With Kocner maybe ability for a long jail expression, Caputova now has brand-new antagonists to contend with- in the form of hearsays and plot beliefs posted on Facebook by what Bratislava-based thinktank, Globsec, describes as” pro-Kremlin disinformation canals “.
She has faced a shelling of attempts since the most recent sketch, before a legally anointed two-week moratorium on pre-election polling that took effect on 2 March, indicated her corroborate at nearly 53%.
Some affixes have articulated surmises about her Goldman award, announcing it the” Hillary Clinton prize” and intimating, incorrectly, “that shes” Jewish. Others have questioned her status as a divorcee, spread reports about her current marriage, claimed that she is seeking to introduce” moral chaos” by imposing a pro-LGBT schedule, or slandered her as presidential candidates of George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who has become a love figure on the far right.
Andrej Danko, commander of the anti-western Slovak National party, a junior collaborator in the current determining alignment, affixed a video on Facebook announcing Caputova an” uncharted daughter who has been created by PR companionships “.
Caputova said she had been sickened by the ferocity of the two attacks, which she said were” full of hatred and based on lies” but was calculated not to respond in kind.
There are signs, nonetheless, that the tactics are reverberating with some.
In the Mlsna Emma coffee shop in Pezinok, Juraj, a 30 -year-old land surveyor in a black baseball ceiling, said he would not vote for Caputova despite knowing members of her family personally.
” Her attitude of the world is different from mine. It’s too radical ,” he said.” Someone has taken a lot of coin and devoted it on her electoral campaigns and she is getting big and bigger- and I don’t know why. She has a really good PR administration .”
In reality, Caputova- who says her campaign has funded by small-minded donations from ordinary citizens totalling EUR2 00,000- owes her popularity partly to the current liberal president Andrej Kiska’s decision not to seek re-election. She has been further boosted by the decision of another radical nominee, Robert Mistrik, to withdraw to shun separating the vote. A third challenger, Maros Sefcovic, an Eu members, has been undermined by perceived association with the governing left-wing Smer party, which has been in authority for 10 of the past 12 years but has become increasingly unpopular as the complaints of malfeasance have multiplied.
Sefcovic, though nominally independent and not a Smer member, exclusively is in agreement with stand after the two parties failed to find other nominees and has accepted its fund. He is widely seen as beholden to Robert Fico, the onetime Smer prime minister who was forced to resign after Kuciak’s murder but is believed to still control gathering and government affairs.
Sefcovic is in a controversy with Stefan Harabin, a magistrate and former head of the supreme court of the united states who has emerged as the favoured campaigner of the extreme right, to finish second on Saturday’s ballot and penetrate the run-off – which is virtually certain because Slovakia’s constitution requires the president to be elected by at least 50% of all eligible voters , not just those who turn out.
Voter disenchantment with the EU over migrations anxieties could spare Harabin, who has promoted baseless rumours that large numbers of immigrants are waiting to cross Slovakia’s territories or are being housed within the country and who has been praised by the same disinformation places that are attacking Caputova.
Igor Danis, a Slovak commentator and adviser, indicated that an online smear campaign could enable Harabin to threaten Caputova in a two-way controversy. Others foresee such a situation would prompt a high turnout from voters determined to keep Harabin out.
Caputova, who performs Zen-Buddhist yoga to save her passions in check, told me that she would be unfazed by farther affects.” I have absolute faith in the ability and maturity of Slovak voters to distinguish between what is true and what is not ,” she said.