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Hungarian President Resigns


Hungarian President Resigns

Hungary’s right-wing figure has stepped down amidst controversy surrounding presidential pardons. Katalin Novak, an associate of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, granted clemency to 25 offenders last year in honor of Pope Francis’s visit to Hungary. However, it later emerged that one of them was connected to a highly publicized child abuse incident.

Katalin Novak made history as Hungary’s inaugural female president, assuming office at 44, the youngest individual to ever attain the position. Prior to her presidency, she represented the ruling Fidesz party in the National Assembly and held the position of Minister for Family Affairs.

In her role, she advocated for traditional family principles as a component of Fidesz’s deeply conservative agenda. Given Fidesz’s overtly Christian stance, when Pope Francis visited Hungary last year, Novak spearheaded the government’s initiative to grant clemency to 25 incarcerated individuals in tribute to the Catholic leader’s appeals for mercy.

Regrettably for Novak, among those granted clemency was Endre Konya, the former deputy director of an orphanage. In 2019, Konya was imprisoned following his conviction for concealing extensive child sexual abuse committed by the orphanage’s director. He was set free after receiving a pardon from Novak. The public outcry ensued once it became apparent whom she had pardoned.

It’s likely that Novak’s decision to pardon Konya was swayed by Zoltan Balog, a member of the president’s advisory council, who also holds roles as a bishop in the Hungarian Reformed Church and a former Fidesz minister. Balog had previously mentored Novak in her political journey. 

Sources within Fidesz reveal that when the scandal emerged, both Novak’s and Orban’s administrations reached out to Balog for explanations. In his response, Balog suggested that church leaders had supported Konya’s pardon.

Confronted with calls for resignation from opposition figures, Novak declared her departure on February 10. Following suit, Justice Minister Judit Varga also tendered her resignation the following day. 

Novak and Varga, both prominent female figures within Hungary’s government and key allies of Orban, stepping down may potentially undermine the prime minister’s stance, particularly amid persisting disputes with the European Union.

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