Hungary’s conservative president, Katalin Novák, resigned amid public outcry over a presidential pardon she granted to a man convicted of hiding a string of child sexual abuses in a state-run children’s home.
The decision came as a rare episode of political turmoil for Hungary’s nationalist governing party Fidesz, which has ruled with a constitutional majority since 2010. Under the leadership of populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Fidesz has been accused of dismantling democratic institutions and rigging the electoral system and media in its favor.
Novák, a key Orbán ally and former vice president of Fidesz, served as the minister for families until her appointment to the presidency. She has been outspoken in advocating for traditional family values and the protection of children. She was the first female president in Hungary’s history and the youngest person to ever hold the office.
Also implicated was Judit Varga, another key Fidesz figure who was minister of justice at the time and endorsed the pardon. Varga announced that she would take political responsibility and “retire from public life, resigning my seat as a member of parliament and also as leader of the EP list.” At the presidential headquarters in Budapest, around 200 people gathered to call on Novák to resign.
Attendees said they were happy but that it wasn’t enough to fundamentally change Orbán’s system of governance. Erzsébet Szapunczay, another attendee, said she was “very, very happy” with Novák’s resignation but that “she should have resigned from the first moment, like many people in this government, because she’s not alone.”