The scandal surrounding the pardon granted to a person convicted in a pedophile case forced Hungarian President Katalin Novák to resign this Saturday. The leader, close to ultraconservative leader Viktor Orbán, pardoned the deputy director of a juvenile center prosecuted for having covered up his boss, who had sexually abused children. The former Minister of Justice, Judit Varga, who was to be head of the list of Fidesz, Orbán’s party, in the European elections in June, is also leaving her post as deputy and withdrawing from the candidacy, because she also gave the green light. before the president’s pardon.
The Hungarian opposition increased pressure this week to demand Novák’s resignation following the revelation of the pardon, which occurred in April 2023, coinciding with the pope’s visit to Hungary. This Friday, thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest and demonstrated in front of the president’s office at Sandor Palace. The Orbán government measured the temperature of society through surveys, as revealed by the local press, and faced with the rejection that the affair provoked among his own voters, the Prime Minister decided to go into lockdown mode. damage.
Orbán, in power since 2010, announced on Thursday that his government would propose constitutional reform limit the presidential prerogative of pardon in all cases linked to pedophilia. Other members of his cabinet came to demonstrate their rejection of the pardon granted by Novák. It was only a matter of time before the president, returning to Hungary this Saturday, cutting short a visit to Qatar, presented her resignation.
“I made a mistake… Today is the last day I address you as president,” Novák announced in a message broadcast on state television on Saturday afternoon, as A new demonstration was planned. “I made the decision to grant a pardon last April, considering that the convicted person had not abused the vulnerability of the children he had supervised. “I made a mistake, because the grace and lack of motivation were such as to cast doubt on the zero tolerance applied to pedophilia,” he said. Varga announced her decision to leave her seat as a Fidesz MP and not to run in the European elections in a message on Facebook.
The presidency is a position with few powers and little symbolic value in Hungary. Novák, 46, was elected by the large Fidesz parliamentary majority in 2022. During her term, she projected the friendlier face of Hungarian institutions, as good cop in international affairs like the war in Ukraine. While Orbán, close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has not yet visited Kiev, Novák visited the neighboring country and met Volodimir Zelensky during the war with Russia.
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After joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2010, Novák served as State Secretary for Youth and Family between 2014 and 2020. She then served as minister in the same portfolio until December 2021, when she resigned shortly after Orbán surprised public opinion by introducing her as his presidential candidate. A loyal follower of the Prime Minister and his ultraconservative and nationalist vision, she was one of the architects of Fidesz’s policy in favor of the traditional Christian family. An example of this type of initiative is the controversial homophobic law, inspired by a Russian norm that prohibits LGTBI content during children’s opening hours or in books intended for minors, and which is at the center of one of the fights between Budapest and Brussels.
Varga, along with Novák, was the female exception in a government populated by men. The former justice minister was one of those tasked with negotiating with Brussels the legislative changes needed to release frozen EU funds to Hungary due to the rule of law drifting. In the middle of the conversations, Orbán decided to dismiss her and give her the head of the list for the European elections. The ultraconservative leader, more isolated than ever in the European Union, places his hopes in these elections, where he hopes for a turnaround that will allow the far right to emerge as a powerful force within European institutions.