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Slovakia Inaugurates 1st Female Prez   06/15 09:23

   BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) --- Liberal environmental activist and lawyer 
Zuzana Caputova was inaugurated Saturday as the first female president of 

   Caputova took the oath of office at a special session of Parliament, 
becoming Slovakia's fifth president since it gained independence after the 
split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

   The 45-year-old has little experience in politics but attracted voters who 
are appalled by corruption and mainstream politics. Her election to the largely 
ceremonial post defied a wave of gains for far right populists across Europe.

   "I'm not here to rule, I'm here to serve,"Caputova said in her inauguration 

   A lawyer by profession, Caputova became known for leading a successful fight 
against a toxic waste dump in her hometown of Pezinok, for which she received 
the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2016.

   A divorced mother of two, she is in favor of gay rights and opposes a ban on 
abortion in this conservative Roman Catholic country.

   She only recently became vice chairman of Progressive Slovakia, a new pro-EU 
party that won the recent European Parliament election in Slovakia

   Caputova resigned from her party post after winning the first round of the 
presidential vote.

   Like her popular predecessor Andrej Kiska, who didn't run for a second term, 
she is firmly supporting Slovakia's membership in the European Union and NATO.

   She said the EU and NATO give her country "happiness and privilege that 
(previous) generations could only dream of."

   Kiska backed Caputova in the presidential vote in March when she beat 
European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic in a runoff vote.

   Kiska's five-year term in office was marked by clashes with populist former 
prime minister Robert Fico and his leftist party, a dominant political force 
that was tarnished by corruption scandals.

   Caputova and Kiska had both supported the massive anti-government street 
protests last year following the slayings of an investigative reporter and his 
fiancee that that led to the fall of Fico's coalition government. Investigators 
have linked Jan Kuciak's death to his work probing possible widespread 
government corruption.

   The president of the nation of 5.4 million people has the power to pick the 
prime minister, appoint Constitutional Court judges and veto laws. Parliament 
can override the veto with a simple majority, however. The government, led by 
the prime minister, possesses most executive powers.

   Caputova hosted a lunch for the elderly later Saturday. 

   "I want to be the voice of those who are not heard," she said. 


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