Hungary’s President, Ms. Novak, has publicly resigned on TV following her controversial decision to pardon a man convicted of concealing a child sexual abuse case. The man had been imprisoned for forcing children to withdraw sexual abuse allegations against a director of a state-run children’s home. This decision sparked widespread protests in Hungary, leading to demands for her resignation.
Ms. Novak apologized for her “mistake” in granting the pardon. Judit Varga, the former justice minister who approved the pardon, also resigned from her new role leading the European elections campaign for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.
The controversy began when Hungarian media revealed the names of 25 people pardoned by Ms. Novak during Pope Francis’s visit to Hungary in April last year. Among those pardoned was the deputy director of a children’s home near Budapest, who had been sentenced to three years in prison for forcing children to withdraw abuse allegations against the home’s director.
The unexpected resignations have caused a significant political scandal for Hungary’s long-standing nationalist government, particularly for Fidesz, which has built its social policy around traditional family values.
Ms. Novak stated that she granted the pardon believing that the convicted man “did not exploit the vulnerability of the children under his oversight”. She apologized to victims who “might have felt that I did not stand up for them”.
In addition to Ms. Novak’s resignation, Judit Varga also stepped down over the same case. The dual resignations of two leading female politicians from Fidesz represent a significant blow to Mr. Orban and his party, especially with Ms. Varga scheduled to lead the Fidesz list in the European elections in June.