Anti-corruption campaigner Zuzana Caputova was sworn in as Slovakia’s first female president on Saturday, vowing to fight impunity and champion justice in a country shaken by a journalist’s murder last year.
The killing of Jan Kuciak, who investigated high-level graft cases, and his fiancee at their home last February sparked mass street protests and hit the approval ratings of the governing leftist party Smer.
In her inauguration speech, Caputova said state officials that had proven incapable of stamping out corruption should lose their jobs and vowed to make the justice system work fairly for everyone.
“Under the constitution, people are free and equal in dignity and in rights, meaning nobody is that irrelevant to have their rights compromised, nor is anyone that powerful to stand above the law. Too many people feel that this is not quite the reality in our country. The feeling of injustice has grown and has demonstrated itself in calls for change and decency but also in anger over ‘the system’,” she said in a nod to the rise to anti-system and far-right parties.
Caputova’s election stood in contrast to a European shift towards populist and nationalist parties.
Caputova, whose fight against an illegal landfill in her home town earned her the nickname “Slovakia’s Erin Brockovich” after the American environmentalist portrayed by Julia Roberts in a 2000 film, also called on the European Union to become a leader in the battle against climate change.
Slovakia’s president wields little day-to-day power but appoints prime ministers and can veto appointments of senior prosecutors and judges.