Hungarian President Novak resigns over sex abuse case pardon

Hungarian President Katalin Novak

Hungarian President Katalin Novak has stepped down amidst escalating pressure following her controversial decision to pardon a man convicted of concealing sexual abuse in a children’s home.

Novak’s resignation, announced on Saturday, follows public outcry and calls for accountability from opposition figures.

Novak, known as a staunch ally of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban, faced intense scrutiny after a local news outlet reported her presidential pardon.

The move sparked widespread condemnation. It led to demands for her resignation and the departure of former Justice Minister Judit Varga, a prominent figure in Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.

The scandal marks a rare setback for Orban who has maintained a firm grip on power since 2010. It comes at a critical juncture as Hungary grapples with economic challenges and prepares for European parliament elections.

Orban’s stance on issues such as child protection and LGBTQ rights has drawn criticism from the European Commission in the past.

“I made a mistake”

In her televised resignation speech, President Katalin Novak acknowledged her error: “I made a mistake.”

She cited her decision to grant the pardon, expressing regret over its impact on perceptions of the government’s commitment to combating paedophilia.

The opposition had been vocal in demanding Novak’s resignation, with protests gathering momentum outside her office. In response, Orban proposed a constitutional amendment to limit the president’s authority to pardon crimes against children, seen by many as a direct response to the controversy.

Judit Varga who endorsed the controversial pardon also announced her resignation from public life, taking responsibility for her actions. Fidesz, the ruling party, supported Novak and Varga’s decisions, emphasising their accountability.

Despite the turmoil, Fidesz remains dominant in Hungarian politics, leading in opinion polls ahead of the upcoming elections. However, the fallout from the scandal underscores the challenges facing Orban’s government as it navigates both domestic and international pressures.

Blow to Orban’s government

The resignation of the Hungarian President Novak and former Justice Minister Varga represents a significant blow to Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his government.

This double resignation, amidst increasing protests, has deprived Viktor Orban of two very different but essential allies.

There has been strict silence from the prime minister himself, at least for now. It is undoubtedly his biggest challenge in 14 years of uninterrupted Fidesz rule.

While the high-profile resignations have dented his power, they have not yet seriously damaged it.

An anti-Orban protest is planned for Friday, but the prime minister is expected to come out fighting, presumably on Saturday when he is due to deliver his annual State of the Nation address.




CathNews New Zealand


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