A rare bit of good news was welcomed by the staunchly pro-EU wing of reformist European politicians at the weekend after Slovakia’s Zuzana Caputova won the first round of her country’s presidential elections on 16 March.

A newcomer to Slovak politics, Caputova campaigned on a strong anti-corruption platform that singled-out the running the ruling Smer party.

Caputova secured a 40% share of the vote after running on a pro-Europe, liberal campaign in a political landscape that was dominated by nationalist politicians.

The candidate for the ruling Smer party was EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic who ran on a platform of continuity, family values, anti-immigration slogans, and a commitment to sovereigntist politics directed pointed criticism against Brussels.

Sefcovic previously hoped to secure the nomination of the centre-left to become the next President of the European Commission for the Socialists and Democrats captured only 19% of the vote. This now forces him to look for support from the right if he hopes to have a better showing in the second round.

Slovakia’s former justice minister, Stefan Harabin, ran on an anti-immigration platform and came third with 14.4% of the vote. Parliamentary speaker Marian Kotleba, who has often made positive references referred to the Slovak Republic of 1939-45 -a Fascist client state if Nazi Germany,  secured a 10.6% share of the vote.

The second round is on March 30.

The Slovak political landscape was shaken after the assassination of Jan Kuciak, an anti-corruption journalist who reported political corruption. The investigation into the journalist’s murder is still open. Authorities have just charged businessman Marian Kocner, a politically well-connected figure who is accused of ordering Kuciak’s assassination.

Slovakia has since seen the biggest wave of anti-government protests since the end of communism.