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Pardon in a child abuse case in Hungary: the president resigns

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President Katalin Novak is close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

Political earthquake in Hungary: President Katalin Novak, close to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, resigned on Saturday due to the indignation provoked by his decision to pardon a convict involved in a child crime case.

Almost at the same time, Judit Varga, another ally of the prime minister, announced her withdrawal from public life for having given her endorsement as Minister of Justice – a post she left in the summer last to lead the campaign for the European elections.

A scenario that was still unthinkable a few days ago.

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Hungarian President Katalin Novak announces her resignation in the presidential palace in Budapest, Hungary, February 10, 2024.

The controversy was provoked by the pardon granted in April 2023, on the occasion of Pope Francis' visit to Budapest, to a former deputy director of a children's home, sentenced in 2022 to more than three years of prison for having covered the actions of his superior.

Since the revelation last week by the investigative site 444 of this decision, the anger was rising in the country.

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Demonstrators gathered Friday evening at the call of the opposition in front of the presidential palace, and three of the presidential advisers left their posts.

Faced with the scandal, Katalin Novak, who was in Qatar to attend a match between Hungary and Kazakhstan at the World Water Polo Championships, rushed her return to Budapest.

As soon as her plane landed, she announced that she was giving up her post, recognizing during a solemn speech that she had made a mistake.

The pardon granted and the lack of explanations may have raised doubts regarding zero tolerance in matters of pedophilia. However, there can be no doubt about this, she stressed, before apologizing to those she may have hurt.

This former minister of family policy became in March 2022 the first woman to occupy this essentially ceremonial function.

It was quick: first Novak, then Varga. But we know that no important decision can be made in Hungary without the approval of Viktor Orban. He must take responsibility and explain what happened […], it's his system.

A quote from Anna Donath, MEP from the liberal Momentum party, on Facebook

The nationalist leader, aware of the potential devastating impact of a scandal touching at the heart of his stated child protection policy, had announced Thursday wanting to revise the Constitution in order to exclude the possibility of pardoning pedophiles.

Without procrastinating, he skillfully deflected the scandal and decided to sacrifice two of his faithful – simple party soldiers – to save his skin, summarizes political analyst Richard Szentpeteri Nagy, quoted by the Nepszava newspaper.

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The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has made the fight against child crime one of his hobby horses. (File photo)

Viktor Orban has made the fight against child crime one of his hobbyhorses. In 2021, it also adopted a law prohibiting any mention of homosexuality among minors in public, in a merger with pornography and pedophilia denounced by Brussels.

Katalin Novak, temporarily replaced by the President of Parliament Laszlo Kover, was presented last year by the magazine Forbes as the most influential woman in public life in Hungary.

Originally from the city of Szeged (south), graduated in economics and law, studied at Sciences Po Paris before training at ENA (the former National School of Administration in France), Ms. Novak speaks French fluently and was made a knight of the Legion of Honor in 2019.

Appointed Secretary of State for Family Affairs and youth in 2014, this mother of three obtained her ministerial stripes in 2020.

Ms. Novak's mission was to put an end to to the demographic decline of the country with pronatalist policies, declaring that Hungary does not want immigration or population replacement.

With his departure, the Hungarian political landscape is now very masculine, knowing that since mid-2023 there have been no women in Viktor Orban's cabinet, made up of 16 men.

By admin

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