Hungary’s conservative president resigned amid public outcry over pardoning a man convicted of complicity in a child sex abuse case, a decision that sparked an unprecedented political scandal for the government long-time nationalist.
Katalin Novák, 46, announced in a television message on Saturday that she would step down from the presidency, a position she has held since 2022. Her decision comes after more than a week of public outrage after it was revealed that she had granted a presidential pardon. in April 2023 to a man convicted of hiding a series of child sexual abuses at a state-run children’s home.
“I granted a pardon that caused confusion and concern among many people,” Novák said on Saturday. “I made a mistake.”
Novák’s resignation came as a rare political upheaval for Hungary’s ruling nationalist party, Fidesz, which has governed with a constitutional majority since 2010. Led byFidesz has been accused of dismantling democratic institutions and rigging the electoral system and the media in its favor.
Novák, a key Orbán ally and former Fidesz vice president, served as Hungary’s family minister until her appointment to the presidency. She openly defended traditional family values and the protection of children.
She was the first female president in Hungarian history and the youngest person to ever hold the position.
But her sentence ended after she pardoned a man sentenced to more than three years in prison in 2018 for pressuring victims to withdraw allegations of sexual abuse by the director of the establishment, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for abusing at least 10 children between 2004 and 2016.
“Based on the request for pardon and the information available, I decided in April last year in favor of the pardon, considering that the convict had not abused the vulnerability of the children in his care” , Novák said on Saturday. “I made a mistake, because the decision to pardon and the lack of justification were likely to raise doubts about zero tolerance towards pedophilia. But here, there is not and there cannot be have doubts.”
Judit Varga, another key Fidesz figure who approved the pardon as Hungary’s justice minister, was also involved in the pardon. Varga was expected to top the list of Fidesz candidates for the European Parliament in this summer’s elections.
But in a Facebook post on Saturday, Varga announced that she would take political responsibility for approving the pardon and “withdraw from public life, resigning from my seat as an MP and also as head of the list in the European Parliament.”
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