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Katalin Novák: Hungarian president resigns over pedophilia scandal

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Katalin Novák: Hungarian president resigns over pedophilia scandal

Hungary’s President Katalin Novák has resigned under pressure from the opposition and government. Viktor Orbán’s confidant pardoned a man who had been convicted of aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of minors. This caused great outrage in Hungary.

“I made a mistake,” Novák said in a statement carried by Hungarian state television.

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Novák has been Hungary’s head of state since May 2022. Just a few hours before her resignation, she returned early from an official visit to the Gulf Emirate of Qatar to Budapest. Thousands of demonstrators called for her resignation in Budapest on Friday evening.

The right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently publicly distanced himself from his former political colleague Novák. He introduced a proposal for a constitutional amendment to Parliament, according to which criminals whose victims are children should never be pardoned.

Hungary’s government presents itself as a protector of children

Orbán’s government has long portrayed itself as protecting children from sexual violence. In 2021, she implemented a controversial “child protection law” that prohibits children from being educated about homosexuality in schools. Anyone who distributes such publications must make them inaccessible to minors. Critics complain that the spirit of this law equates homosexuality with pedophilia.

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The man pardoned by Novák was the deputy director of a children’s home in Bicske near Budapest. According to the court ruling, he forced children to recant their testimonies as victims of abuse against the home director in order to exonerate his boss. He had known about the acts of abuse for years. The home director was sentenced to eight years in prison. His pardoned deputy received a prison sentence of three years and four months.

The pardon took place in April 2023, on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Budapest. The incident only became known through media reports a week ago.

Recently, Novák has not always represented government policy

In Hungary, heads of state play a subordinate political role. They are elected by parliament, usually on the recommendation of the strongest party. The Prime Minister himself suggested filling this position with Novák, until then the leading politician from Orbán’s Fidesz party.

Orbán is likely to be satisfied with Novák’s resignation because the president has not always represented government policy in recent times. On several occasions she has been critical of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, while Orbán continues to maintain relatively good relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Novák also spoke out in favor of a quick ratification of Sweden’s NATO accession by Hungary’s parliament, which Orbán is delaying.

Hungary’s President Katalin Novák has resigned under pressure from the opposition and government. Viktor Orbán’s confidant pardoned a man who had been convicted of aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of minors. This caused great outrage in Hungary.

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“I made a mistake,” Novák said in a statement carried by Hungarian state television.

Novák has been Hungary’s head of state since May 2022. Just a few hours before her resignation, she returned early from an official visit to the Gulf Emirate of Qatar to Budapest. Thousands of demonstrators called for her resignation in Budapest on Friday evening.

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