Bratislava, Slovakia – In a startling new development that seems to have caught almost everyone by surprise, Robert Mistrik announced that he decided to withdraw from the Slovak presidential race to back Progressive Slovakia candidate Zuzana Čaputová instead.
On Tuesday, scientist and independent candidate backed by several opposition parties Robert Mistrik announced that he decided to pull out of the election. “My ambition was for Slovakia to have a decent and smart president”, he said during a press conference.
“I express loud and clear support for Ms. Čaputová. Data to be released this week show clear momentum for her” he added, urging his voters to do to the same and “not to let the pawn of Robert Fico become president”, referring to Smer-nominee and frontrunner Maroš Šefčovič.
According to reports, he based his decision on the agreement he made with Čaputová through which one of them would withdraw to prevent Maroš Šefčovič to face off Štefan Harabin in the second round of the election.
“It’s remarkable when somebody puts the interests of society above his own”, Čaputová said, thanking him for his decision.
Although it was widely expected that either Mistrik or Čaputová would withdraw to boost the chances of one of them to reach the second round, it was believed that the latter, positioned at a strong third place in recent polls, would pull out in favor of the former, second in voting intentions and only a few points behind front-runner and current European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič. Although the 45-year-old NGO lawyer’s bid has been gaining momentum over the past few weeks, opposition parties Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and OĽaNO were still calling for her to withdraw, arguing that polls showed that Mistrik was the only one who could beat Šefčovič in the March 30 run-off.
In what may have influenced Mistrik’s decision, a recent poll conducted by the MKV agency put Čaputová ahead of Mistrik for the first time, and by a wide margin of 5 percentage points. Another AKO poll showed the chances of the top three candidates drastically narrowing, with Šefčovič (19.7%) only a few points ahead of Mistrik (18.2%) and Čaputová (17.4%).
More than a dozen candidates will face off on March 16 in the first round of Slovakia’s presidential election. You can find the complete list of the presidential hopefuls here. If no candidate gains more than 50% of the votes, the top two candidates will head to the second round, on March 30.
Although the president in Slovakia doesn’t wield much day-to-day power, he plays an important role in several key areas, including the formation of new governments and the appointment of Constitutional Court judges – an issue of the foremost importance given the current crisis paralyzing the country’s highest judicial body.