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Liberal Caputova to become first female president of Slovakia

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Zuzana Caputova has been elected as Slovakia's first female president, according to preliminary results.

Liberal lawyer Zuzana Caputova is set to become the first female president of Slovakia, the electoral commission announced early Sunday.

According to the unofficial final result released by the electoral commission, the 45-year-old garnered 58.4 percent of the vote in Saturday's run-off, ahead of Maros Sefcovic, a political independent who is the EU's energy commissioner. Sefcovi got 41.6 percent.

Sefcovic congratulated Caputova on her victory.

Caputova thanked voters in a speech she gave in Slovak, Czech, Hungarian and the language of the Roma minority.

She told supporters she saw her election as a signal for change. Her supporters chanted "Zuzana, Zuzana!"

Caputova said she aimed to take a "clearly pro-European stance" in her new post.

The official final election result is to be announced Sunday afternoon, the Interior Ministry told dpa.

Her swearing-in is set for June 15.

The polls in the decisive second round of Slovakia's presidential election closed at 10 pm (2100 GMT). The voting ended without incident, the electoral commission said after the polls shut.

Unofficial forecasts had predicted a clear victory for Caputova, who was favored in pre-election polls.

More than 4 million people were eligible to cast their ballots in the poll, a head-on contest between the two candidates who gained the most votes in the first round of the elections on March 16.

Many Slovakians who live in Austrian and Hungarian communities near the capital Bratislava crossed the border to cast their votes, which is only possible within the country.

Caputova won 40.6 percent of the vote in the first round, compared to Sefcovic's 18.7 percent.

Caputova is a liberal civic lawyer with the Progresivne Slovensko party who first got involved in politics more than ten years ago to fight plans to build a garbage dump.

Her new post is a largely symbolic position.

She has been repeatedly criticized by the church and other conservative groups for her stance on abortion and homosexuals but said her victory in the first round showed that Slovakia is not as conservative as many people believe it is.

According to pollster Pavel Haulik, turnout is likely to fall below the 49 per cent achieved in the first ballot.

The murder of journalist Jan Kuciak in February prompted mass protests in Slovakia that forced a change in the government.

Kuciak, who was shot dead together with his partner Martina Kusnirova at his home near Bratislava, had been working on a story about links between the Slovak government and the Italian Mafia.

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