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Anti-corruption campaigner tipped to win Slovakia's presidential run-off

Anti-corruption campaigner tipped to win Slovakia's presidential run-off
FILE PHOTO: Slovakia's presidential candidate Zuzana Caputova speaks to media after casting her vote during the country's presidential elections at a polling station in Pezinok, Slovakia, March 16, 2019. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo   -   Copyright  David W Cerny(Reuters)
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BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Anti-corruption campaigner Zuzana Caputova was projected to win 60.5 percent of the vote in Slovakia’s presidential election run-off on March 30 in her first run for political office, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.

The Median agency poll for public broadcaster RTVS, the first since Caputova claimed a decisive first-round victory last weekend, put the candidate backed by the ruling party, European Union commissioner Maros Sefcovic, at 39.5 percent.

Pro-European, liberal Caputova won the first round with 40.6 percent, a result that stands out among the rise of populist, nationalist politicians across much of Europe.

Sefcovic, backed by parliament’s largest party Smer, got 18.7 percent. Anti-immigrant and far-right candidates took third and fourth spots, not enough to advance to the run-off.

Corruption has been a top theme in the election, coming a year after investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, who covered fraud cases involving politically connected businessman, and his fiancee were murdered at their home.

The killings, for which five people have been charged, sparked massive anti-government demonstrations that led long-time prime minister Robert Fico to resign, although his government stayed in place.

Thousands rallied on the first anniversary of Kuciak’s murder in February to protest what they see as a lack of government action on the corruption he had uncovered.

Caputova, a lawyer who was previously best known for a long fight against an illegal landfill in her hometown, has campaigned to end what she calls the capture of the state “by people pulling strings from behind.” Her message has resonated with younger, educated voters, according to polls.

Sefcovic, who is also pro-European, said he would seek to unite the divided country and pitched his Christian values in a bid to court socially conservative voters.

Slovakia’s president does not wield day-to-day power but has a strong say in the appointments of senior prosecutors and judges, a key role in the fight against corruption.

(Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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