Scandal Forces Hungarian President Katalin Novak’s Resignation Amid Child Abuse Pardon Controversy


Hungarian President Katalin Novak, a trusted friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, stepped down on Saturday after public anger over pardoning a man involved in a child s*xual abuse case. The resignation was announced on Live TV.

Last week, it came to light that President Novak had pardoned a man who had been imprisoned for pressuring children to withdraw s*xual abuse accusations against a director at a state-operated children’s home.

Pressure from opposition politicians and protests outside the presidential palace on Friday evening prompted the announcements. Ms. Novak acknowledged her mistake in granting the pardon and apologized. 

Judit Varga, the former justice minister who approved the pardon, also resigned from her position leading Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party’s European elections campaign.

“I am resigning,” said Novak, admitting her error. “I apologize to those I hurt and all victims who may have felt unsupported,” Novak emphasized her support for protecting children and families.

The controversy arose after Hungarian media disclosed the names of 25 people pardoned by Novak during Pope Francis’s visit to Hungary last April.

One of those who received a pardon was the assistant director of a children’s home near Budapest. He was found guilty of forcing children to withdraw accusations of abuse against the director of the facility.

Hungarian opposition parties and protesters had demanded Novak’s resignation, and her sudden decision to step down was unexpected.

Novak, a popular figure within Fidesz and a rare female politician in Hungary’s male-dominated landscape, previously served as family minister and became the first woman to hold the ceremonial role of Hungarian president in 2022.

After independent news site 444 revealed the decision last week, the country’s opposition called for Novak’s resignation. On Friday evening, demonstrators gathered outside the presidential palace, and three presidential advisers resigned.

Novak, who had been in Qatar for Hungary’s match against Kazakhstan at the World Water Polo Championships, hurried back to Budapest. Upon arriving, she declared her resignation, expressing worries that the pardon and absence of clarification might raise questions about the government’s strong stance against pedophilia. She apologized for the situation.

Not long after Novak’s statement, another supporter of Orban, Judit Varga, declared her retreat from public engagement on Facebook. Varga, who served as the justice minister, had endorsed the pardon and stepped down to lead a campaign for the European Parliament elections.

Hungarian MEP Anna Donath discussed the quick resignations, noting that major decisions in Hungary need Viktor Orban’s OK. Donath stressed the importance of Orban taking responsibility and clarifying matters, calling it “his way of doing things.

Orban promises to change Hungary’s laws to stop pardoning pedophiles, aiming to calm down angry people.

Forbes magazine named Novak the most powerful woman in Hungary last year. Laszlo Kover, the Speaker of Parliament, currently replaces her.

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