After facing escalating pressure over a controversial pardon decision, Hungarian President Katalin Novak has tendered her resignation on live television in Budapest, Hungary. The departure comes following revelations that Novak pardoned a man convicted of concealing child sexual abuse allegations in connection with a state-operated children’s home. The uproar intensified as details of the pardon were unveiled last week, sparking public outrage and mounting calls for her to step down.
The recent scandal involved the disclosure of the names of 25 individuals who were granted clemency by Novak last April during a visit by Pope Francis to Hungary. Among those pardoned was a deputy director of a children’s home near Budapest, who was serving a jail term for coercing children to withdraw sexual abuse claims against the home’s director. The facility’s director himself had been sentenced to eight years in prison for child abuse.
Accompanying Novak’s resignation, Judit Varga, the former justice minister who approved the controversial pardon, has also announced her resignation from a significant role leading the European elections campaign for PM Viktor Orban‘s ruling Fidesz party. The scandal has dealt a severe blow to Fidesz and cast a shadow over Hungary’s political landscape.
In a televised address, President Novak expressed regret over her decision, acknowledging that she made a mistake in extending clemency to the convicted individual. She emphasized that the pardon was granted on the belief that the person had not exploited the vulnerable children under his supervision. However, she admitted fault, recognizing that the lack of transparency regarding the reasoning behind the pardon had caused skepticism on Hungary’s stand on combating paedophilia.
Novak’s resignation marks an unexpected turn of events, stirring deep embarrassment within Fidesz, a party known for its emphasis on traditional family values in social policies. Novak, a prominent female ally of PM Orban and the first woman to hold the Hungarian presidency, has been a key figure in Fidesz’s leadership. The unfolding scandal has drawn attention not only for the controversy it has ignited but also for prompting the resignation of two leading female politicians from Fidesz, significantly impacting the party’s internal dynamics and upcoming electoral strategies.
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