Slovakia’s first female president won’t seek reelection next year

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s first female president said Tuesday that she won’t seek reelection in next year’s presidential vote.

President Zuzana Čaputová said the announcement was one of the “toughest” she has made. She said that after a serious assessment of her options, she came to the conclusion that she wouldn’t have enough strength left for another five-year term.

“We all know that the last four years were linked to crises,” Čaputová said, citing the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and soaring inflation.

She said those were the most difficult years of her life.

“I feel sorry if I disappoint those who expected me to run again,” she said. “The fate of Slovakia is not in the hands of one person.”

Čaputová has been a clear pro-Western voice in Slovak politics and a staunch supporter of Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s full-scale invasion.

She visited Ukraine twice since Russia launched the war in February 2022.

Čaputová is currently the most popular among Slovakia’s politicians, according to opinion polls. She is a liberal environmental activist and a lawyer by profession was elected to the largely ceremonial post in 2019. She became Slovakia’s fifth president since the country gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

She had little experience in politics but attracted voters who were appalled by corruption and mainstream politics. Her election to the largely ceremonial post defied a wave of gains for far-right populists across Europe.

A divorced mother of two, Čaputová has been in favor of gay rights and opposed attempts to ban abortion in the conservative Roman Catholic country.

Slovakia is heading for an early election on Sept. 30 and is currently led by a caretaker government of technocrats.

The government led by Prime Minister Ludovit Odor has followed the stance of the previous Cabinet of Prime Minister Eduard Heger in supporting Ukraine. But some current opposition leaders, including former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, oppose military support for Ukraine and European Union sanctions against Russia.

Fico and his Smer-Social Democracy leftist party are the favorites to win the upcoming election, according to recent polls.

Čaputová has come under attack from Fico, a major pro-Russia and anti-American voice in the country who has targeted her support for Ukraine and accused her of being a U.S. agent who consults the steps she takes with the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava.

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