Slovakia: can Čaputová live up to expectations?

Zuzana Čaputová, future president of Slovakia, promises change on many fronts. The 45-year-old liberal lawyer and environmental activist's entry into politics has created great expectations. But some observers warn against excessive euphoria.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

In Václav Havel's footsteps

Čaputová's election marks a turning point with a historical precedent, the Tages-Anzeiger observes:

“Supporters and commentators are once again frequently quoting Vaclav Havel's words: 'Truth and love triumph over lies and hate'. The legendary former president is Čaputová's role model and Čaputová herself is becoming a role model in the neighbouring Czech Republic. A new, unburdened generation should now seize the opportunity in Slovakia to fulfil Havel's legacy. It is in their power to leave behind the authoritarian state, the mire of the 1990s and the political aberrations and campaign for a just political system.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Central Europe is not lost to populism

Sydsvenskan also sees the election result as positive:

“There is an urgent need for a clear voice for openness and liberalism in Central Europe. The entire democratic world needs more such examples of how the establishment can be challenged without populist slogans, without exaggerated headlines, without a rhetoric of hate. ... That allows us to hope that the political currents in Central Europe won't have to carry on developing according to the same pattern as they have done in the past. It is not inevitable that the tensions in the EU will increase. It's possible to inspire enthusiasm for liberal policies. Zuzana Čaputová is simply reminding Europe of the art of what is possible.”

Népszava (HU) /

Slovakians are the EU's model pupils

The election of Zuzana Čaputová shows what makes Slovakia different from the other Visegrád states, writes the left-wing daily Népszava:

“The four Visegrád states stand for four different directions. The Slovakians are trying to be the model pupils in the EU. True, they fought tooth and nail against the refugee quotas, but they didn't turn it into a fundamental issue or start shouting about a 'dictate from Brussels'. And they even took in a few dozen thoroughly checked migrants. The decisive point is that they want to belong to the so-called 'core Europe'.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

President won't have all the power

Lidové noviny calls for a greater sense of sobriety when it comes to evaluating the election result:

“It's good that Čaputová has won. But the powers she has as Slovakia's head of state don't really allow her to impose anything, and certainly not justice. ... Slovakia is now getting something that the French call 'cohabitation'. There will also be confrontation. But will it really be so hard? A glance at neighbouring Austria, where the Green president Van der Bellen has cohabited with a government that includes the [right-wing populist] Freedom Party of Austria, shows that this can all be done without a head-on confrontation.”

Denník N (SK) /

People want to turn their backs on the Fico era

The presidential elections was also about settling scores with the still powerful ex-prime minister Robert Fico, Denik N postulates:

“Zuzana Čaputová stands for change. Because although we didn't vote for the parliament or government we had the feeling that the ex-prime minister was in the game. Čaputová embodies the hope that the Fico era really will end. ... This doesn't mean that now a fairytale will begin. We don't just have the democratic camp that stands against Fico and his servants but are also confronted with the anti-system politicians who are reaching more and more people. So the next parliamentary elections could bring major chaos.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

Not an all-powerful Czarina

Mladá fronta dnes brings those celebrating Čaputová's victory back to reality with a bump:

“It's not easy to change the powerful parties' policies as head of state. The president simply lacks the power for that. To judge by the reactions on Facebook you'd think the people had elected some kind of Czarina. But the truth is a different matter. ... Čaputová is in an even more difficult position than her predecessor Andrej Kiska because there's more euphoria after her election. What's more, it will be her task now to rope in the voters on the nationalist far-right extreme of the political spectrum.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Time for changes

It seems Slovakia is tired of all the anti-European politics, Večernji list comments:

“Zuzana Čaputová's victory is a bitter pill for the countries known as the Visegrád Group (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) - and a slap in the face above all for the anti-European politics of Hungarian President Viktor Orbán. Čaputová has drawn voters with a pro-European programme and the promise to fight corruption and campaign for social justice and environmental protection.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Eastern Europe has found its campaign topic

The election result in Slovakia shows that one topic now tops the agenda in Eastern Europe, Le Temps comments:

“The massive protest movement [after the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak] has finally been translated into election results. Zuzana Čaputová went into politics as the protests were gathering momentum and became their face. ... In recent years Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his partners in the region have relied completely on fears of a refugee invasion, and framed the EU Commission's timid attempts to distribute the refugees as rule by dictate. Today there is far less pressure than there was in 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, and Europe has become much less easy to access than Eastern Eurosceptics claimed. Chances are high that a far more troublesome campaign topic will impose itself: corruption.”