May 25, 2019
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Slovakia gears up to head to polls for first round of presidential election

Bratislava, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- Slovakia's electorate is getting ready to head to the polls for the first round of a presidential election in order to choose a successor to the outgoing head of state for the next five years.

Citizens would be heading to polling stations across the country to elect a replacement for President Andrej Kiska, who has been in power since 2014.

Zuzana Caputová, a 45-year-old lawyer and environmental activist who until now has no political experience, is the favorite.

Some polls predict she will claim over 50 percent of the votes, which would give her a victory in the first round of the election.

All in all, 14 candidates are in the running for president.

If none of them secures an outright majority, the most popular candidates will go into a run-off round in two weeks time.

Caputová's main opponent is Maros Sefcovic, who has the backing of the ruling center-left Smer social-democratic party.

Sefcovic, 52, is a veteran politician who is the current vice president of the European Commission. He has held several high-profile roles in the Central European country over the course of his career.

The country was at a delicate crossroads following last year's political earthquake that saw the killing of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, 27, who had been critical of links between high-ranking officials and organized crime.

Faced with a wave of protests, the likes of which had not been seen in Slovakia's almost 30 years of democracy, the then-Prime Minister Robert Fico was forced to resign from his post.

The minister of the interior and chief of police also stepped down during the same period.

Despite his resignation, Fico is still the leader of Smer and remains an influential figure, harboring ambitions of becoming a judge at the Constitutional Court.

The special prosecutor investigating Kuciak's killing said Thursday that a well-known businessman, whom in several articles the journalist alleged had committed tax evasion, was suspected of ordering the crime.

Local analysts were viewing the presidential election as a barometer on whether the electorate sought to distance the country from populism and corruption or whether it would instead opt for a new style of politics that would return the population's faith to its institutions.

Slovakia has been a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004.

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