Hungarian President Katalin Novak resigns over sexual abuse pardon scandal

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Hungarian President Katalin Novak on Saturday resigned from his position after coming under pressure to pardon a man convicted of helping to cover up sexual abuse in a children’s home. Her resignation came a week after her presidential pardon was first reported by local news site 444.hu. 

Announcing her resignation on state television, Novak said, “I made a mistake … Today is the last day that I address you as a president. I made a decision to grant a pardon last April believing that the convict did not abuse the vulnerability of children whom he had overseen.”

“I made a mistake as the pardon and the lack of reasoning was suitable to trigger doubts over the zero tolerance that applies to pedophilia,” she added. Novak cut short an official visit to Qatar and returned to Budapest unexpectedly on Saturday.

Novak is a close ally of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The revelation caused a public uproar and demands from the opposition for her along with former Justice Minister Judit Varga to quit. Hence, Varga also resigned as a lawmaker yesterday. 

On Saturday, Judit Varga – who was expected to lead Fidesz’s list for the elections, and who also signed off on the pardon – said on Facebook she would step down as a Fidesz MP, taking responsibility for her decision, as per Reuters reports. 

“I resign from public life, I resign my mandate as a lawmaker and also the top position on the European party list,” Varga said.

The scandal was a rare setback for Orban, who has been in power since 2010, and who faces European parliament elections just as the country emerges from an inflation crisis, Reuters reported. 

For many years, Orban has fought to shield children from what he has called LGBTQ activists who prowl the country’s schools. This is just one of the many matters on which Orban and the European Commission have disagreed.

Earlier this week, Hungarian opposition parties had demanded Novak’s resignation over the case and on Friday a thousand demonstrators rallied at Novak’s office calling for her to quit.

Orban personally submitted a constitutional amendment to parliament late Thursday to contain the political damage. Some political analysts had interpreted that move as a clear message to Novak.

 

(With Reuters inputs)

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Published: 11 Feb 2024, 08:44 AM IST

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