Hungary’s president resigns over child abuse pardon scandal

Katalin Novak, Hungary’s first female and youngest president, has stepped down after pardoning a man who helped hide a child abuse case.

Facing growing public outrage and opposition pressure, Hungarian President Katalin Novak resigned on Saturday for pardoning a man who helped conceal a child abuse case in a children’s home.

“I made a mistake (…) Today is the last day that I address you as a president,” she said on state TV.

“I granted a pardon last April thinking that the convict did not exploit the children under his care. I made a mistake as the pardon and the lack of explanation raised doubts over the zero tolerance for paedophilia,” she added.

On Friday, at least 1,000 people rallied in the capital to demand her resignation. Hungarian opposition parties also called for her to step down.

Novak pardoned about two dozen people in April 2023, before Pope Francis’s visit, including the deputy director of a children’s home who helped the former director cover up his crimes.

Endre K was given a prison term of three years and four months in 2022 and banned for another five years from any work or activity involving minors.

But Novak’s pardon freed him and allowed him, theoretically, to resume his profession.

“One cannot express the pain when your mercy denies victims their rightful justice,” one of the victims, Mert Pop, posted on Facebook, asking Novak to explain herself.

On Tuesday Novak said she would never pardon a paedophile, even in this case. She said the reason for her decision was not public and all pardons were controversial by nature.

Novak is a former family minister and an ally of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban. She was also Hungary’s first female and youngest president ever.

Her resignation is a rare political setback for Hungary’s nationalist ruling party Fidesz, which has a constitutional majority since 2010.

Judit Varga, another prominent Fidesz member who approved the pardon as Hungary’s justice minister then, was also involved in the scandal. Varga was expected to head the Fidesz list for the European Parliament elections this summer.

But on Saturday, Varga said on Facebook that she would assume political responsibility for approving the pardon, and “withdraw from public life, giving up my seat as an MP and also as the leader of the EP list.”

On Thursday, Orban proposed a constitutional change to prevent convicted child abusers from getting clemency.

Orban did not directly mention the Novak scandal but said that paedophile offenders should not receive any “mercy”.

“I have submitted a constitutional amendment on behalf of the government to make it impossible to pardon the perpetrator of a crime against a minor child,” he said in a video on his Facebook page.

He added that his first thought would be to cut anyone “in half or into pieces” if they touched one of his five children or six grandchildren.

Share this news
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments