Despite her lack of experience in politics, 45-year-old anti-corruption campaigner Zuzana Caputova won the first round of Slovakia's presidential election on Saturday.
A fierce government critic, Caputova is on track to become Slovakia's first female president after the murder of an investigative journalist last year delivered a blow to the ruling party.
On Saturday, Caputova, a liberal environmentalist lawyer won the first round with 40.5% of votes, placing her well ahead of Maros Sefcovic, the ruling Smer party candidate who got 18.7% of the vote.
But Caputova will have to prove herself again at a second round on March 30 since none of the two candidates was able to secure a majority.
Caputova's popularity rise has been rapid. She has the backing of a protest movement which has called for justice and fairness in the wake of the killing of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee in 2018. Kuciak was investigating fraud cases that involved politically connected businessmen.
The demonstrations were some of the biggest anti-government marches in Slovakia since the end of communism three decades ago and caused former prime minister, Smer leader Robert Fico, to resign.
Two days before the vote opened, special prosecutors said they had charged businessman Marian Kocner with ordering the murder. They said Kocner was a subject of the journalist's reporting and had political connections, including with Smer.
Caputova's slogan "Let us stand up to evil" and promise to restore public trust has proved popular amongst the protesters.
Another of her claims to fame was stopping a businessman from building a landfill in Slovakia's wine county.
Even though Slovakia's president doesn't have any day-to-day power they can veto appointments of senior prosecutors and judges.
A break in Europe's populist wave
Nestled between Poland and Hungary, Caputova's potential presidential victory could deliver a blow to Europe's populist wave.
As vice-chairwoman of the Progressive Slovakia party, Caputova supports gay marriage and adoption. She has also vowed to fight nationalism and supports EU integration.
“We’re facing a crisis of confidence in politics and democratic values are being doubted,” Caputova has previously said.
Adding: “If we don’t stop this trend, extremists will gain more ground.”
The political newcomer vowed to end what she calls the capture of the state by "people who pull the strings from behind".
Caputova told reporters on Sunday she saw "the message from voters for change" after her victory in the first round.