Hungarian president resigns amid backlash over pardon in sex abuse case

In response to growing calls for her resignation, Novak announced her departure live on television, “I am resigning my post”.

| Updated: 11 February, 2024 2:46 pm IST
Hungarian president quits amid backlash over pardon in abuse case

NEW DELHI: Hungarian President Katalin Novak has resigned amid uproar over a controversial pardon granted to a man involved in a child sexual abuse case. The decision to step down came after mounting pressure from opposition figures and public protests outside the presidential palace.

Novak, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, acknowledged her mistake in granting the pardon, stating, “I apologise to those who I hurt and all the victims who may have had the impression that I did not support them.” She emphasised her commitment to protecting children and families but admitted to errors in judgment.

The controversy stemmed from a pardon given to a former deputy director of a children’s home who was implicated in covering up sexual abuse by his superior. The decision, made during a visit by Pope Francis to Budapest, sparked outrage after it was revealed by an independent news site.

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In response to growing calls for her resignation, Novak announced her departure live on television, “I am resigning my post”.

“I apologise to those who I hurt and all the victims who may have had the impression that I did not support them,” the former minister for family policy added.

“I am, I was and I will remain in favour of protecting children and families,” said 46-year-old Novak, acknowledging that she had made a mistake.

Novak became the first woman to hold the essentially ceremonial role of president in March 2022. Shortly thereafter, former justice minister Judit Varga also withdrew from public life over her involvement in the affair.

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The resignations followed protests outside the presidential palace and the departure of three presidential advisers. Novak’s decision to step down was swift, with her offering apologies for any doubts cast on the government’s commitment to combatting pedophilia.

Prime Minister Orban, facing scrutiny over the controversy, had announced plans to amend Hungary’s constitution to prevent pardons for pedophile criminals. The developments have caused significant embarrassment for Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, which has long championed traditional family values.

Novak’s departure leaves Hungary’s political landscape more male-dominated, as she was the first woman to hold the role of President. Her resignation, along with that of Varga, represents a setback for Orban and his party, particularly as Varga was set to lead the Fidesz list in the upcoming European elections.

 

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