Unlike some liberal European governments that live from crisis to crisis, conservative Hungary very rarely is in the headlines for scandals in its administration.
So it was shocking to hear of the damning accusations against President Katalin Novak, and it was surprising to know of her resignation on live TV.
“The president of Hungary has resigned live on television over a decision to pardon a man convicted of covering up a child sexual abuse case. It was revealed last week President Novak had given clemency to a man jailed for forcing children to retract sexual abuse claims against a director of a state-run children’s home.”
Calls for her to step down had been growing in Hungary.
Novak apologized and admitted to having made ‘a mistake’ in granting the pardon.
“Judit Varga, the former minister of justice who approved the pardon, has also resigned from her new role leading the European elections campaign for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.”
The names of 25 people pardoned by President Novak last April during a visit by Pope Francis to Hungary were made public by Hungarian media last week.
“On the list of convicts was the deputy director of a children’s home near Budapest, who had been jailed for three years after forcing children to retract claims of abuse against the director of the home.
The director had himself been jailed for eight years over abusing children at the government-run facility.”
Novak’s decision to resign was sudden and unexpected.
A popular Fidesz politician and a rare female politician, she was a key ally of Hungarian PM Orban and – to make matters worse – previously worked as his family minister.
Since 2022, she has become the first woman to hold the Hungarian presidency.
The scandal surrounding the pardon unleashed an unprecedented political scandal for Hungary’s long-serving nationalist government.
“Speaking in an address live on television, Ms Novak said she granted the pardon in the belief the convicted man ‘did not exploit the vulnerability of the children under his oversight’. She apologized to victims who “might have felt that I did not stand up for them”.
‘I made a mistake, as the pardon and the lack of reasoning were conducive to triggering doubts about the zero tolerance that applies to pedophilia’, Ms Novak added.”