Over the weekend, Slovakia held its presidential elections. Slovakian politics is not often on our radar but the decisive victory of Zuzana Caputova is notable because it seems to buck the tide of right-wing populism, conservative nationalism, and Euroscepticism washing over much of the European Union.

The decisive victory of Zuzana Caputova is notable because it seems to buck the tide of right-wing populism, conservative nationalism, and Euroskepticism washing over much of the European Union.

Caputova is, like many other successful politicians of the moment, anti-establishment, and her campaign tapped in to public sentiment of distrust and dissatisfaction. Her campaign slogan was “stand up to evil”. Apparently inspired by the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée early last year, Caputova campaigned on platforms of anti-corruption and anti-graft.

A newcomer to politics, Caputova is lawyer, an environmentalist, anti-corruption activist who supports gay rights and opposes banning abortion. She has strong anti-corruption credentials, fighting a 14-year battle against an illegal dumpsite in western Slovakia, and being publicly involved in anti-government protests after Kuciak’s death.

The presidential position in Slovakia is largely ceremonial, so it is unlikely that any big policy changes will be made off the back of her election. However, she is responsible for approving new governments and appointing judges. And Slovakia’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for March next year, so if she delivers on her promises, her performance may contribute to bigger political and policy changes in the near future.

It will be interesting to watch whether the contagion effect that has seen right-wing populism grow in popularity across Europe could also hold true for the left. While headed in a different direction, Caputova’s election still demonstrates that voters around the world have lost their trust in the old establishment certainties and are looking for alternatives.
 

This article draws on earlier version published in KPMG’s Tax Now.