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HomeAuslandPost Scandal Involving Child Abuse: President Katalin Novak of Hungary Resigns

Post Scandal Involving Child Abuse: President Katalin Novak of Hungary Resigns

The President of Hungary, Katalin Novak, resigned on Saturday under pressure from the opposition and the government. She pardoned a man who had been convicted of aiding in sexual abuse of minors, sparking widespread outrage.

President of Hungary Resigns under Pressure from the Opposition

“I made a mistake,” Novak said in a video recording broadcast by Hungarian state television. She had been in office since May 2022. Just hours before her resignation, Novak returned prematurely from an official visit to the Gulf Emirate of Qatar to Budapest. Thousands of demonstrators in Budapest had demanded her resignation on Friday evening.

The right-wing populist Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, had recently publicly distanced himself from his former political ally, Novak. He hastily introduced a proposal for a constitutional amendment in parliament stipulating that criminals whose victims are children should never be pardoned.

Orban Government Aims to be a Protector of Children

Orban’s government aims to be seen as a protector of children against sexual violence. In 2021, it pushed through a controversial “child protection law” that prohibits the education of children in schools about homosexuality. Distributors of related publications are also required to make them inaccessible to minors. Critics argue that the spirit of this law equates homosexuality with pedophilia.

The man pardoned by Novak was the deputy head of a children’s home in Bicske, near Budapest. According to the court ruling, he forced children to retract their testimonies as abuse victims against the home’s 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 had received a prison term of three years and four months.

Pardon came to light only recently

The pardon had taken place in April 2023, on the occasion of the then visit of Pope Francis to Budapest. However, it only became public knowledge a week ago through media reports.

In Hungary, heads of state play a subordinate political role. They are elected by parliament, usually on the proposal of the strongest party. The appointment of Novak, a leading politician of Orban’s Fidesz party, had been proposed by the Prime Minister. However, with her resignation, Orban is likely to be satisfied, as Novak had not always represented the government’s policies in recent times. On several occasions, she expressed clear criticism of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, while Orban maintains good relations with Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin. Novak also advocated for a swift ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership by Hungary’s parliament, which Orban has been delaying.

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