04:15 GMT +318 July 2019
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    Presidential candidate Zuzana Caputova with her daughter Emma prepares to cast her vote at a polling station during the first round of the presidential election in Pezinok, Slovakia, Saturday, March 16, 2019.

    Amid Deep Unrest Slovakia Faces Presidential Runoff After Majority Stalemate

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    Zuzana Caputova, a lawyer and anti-corruption campaigner, won 40.5 percent of the vote Sunday in Slovakia’s presidential election, while the country’s ruling Smer-SD party candidate Maros Sefcovic garnered just 18.7 percent.

    "I see a strong call for change in this election following the tragic events last spring and a very strong public reaction," Caputova, a member of the non-parliamentary Progressive Slovakia party, said Saturday, the Guardian reported. 

    "We stand at a crossroads between the loss and renewal of public trust, also in terms of Slovakia's foreign policy orientation."

    A second round runoff for the election is scheduled to be held between the two contestants on March 30, as neither candidate won more than 50 percent of votes.

    The February 2018 killing of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiance, Martina Kušnírová, sparked massive anti-government protests in Slovakia last year. Kuciak's assassination is believed to have been linked to his investigative work. Before his death, the journalist investigated the activities of an Italian mafia organization in Slovakia and its alleged links to local politicians and businessmen.

    Kuciak specialized in tax fraud and money laundering investigations and had accused Slovakia's Smer-SD party of having links with shady businessmen and the local mafia in Bratislava, Sputnik previously reported. 

    The rallies that took place last year, which have been described as the biggest demonstrations in the country since the resignation of the communist leadership and the disintegration of then-Czechoslovakia in 1989, eventually led to the resignation of former Slovakian Minister Robert Fico and his Smer cabinet. Although the Smer party is still in power, its popularity decreased among Slovakians following the double murder.

    Last week, Slovakian authorities charged businessman Marian Kocner, a Slovak entrepreneur who was being investigated by Kuciak, with ordering the journalist's murder, Sputnik previously reported. Kocner has been in custody in the Slovakian city of Banská Bystrica since last June over suspicions of fraud.

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