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President’s Pardon Scandal Rocks Hungary: Viktor Orban Resigns Amidst Outcry Over Child Sexual Abuse Case

Controversial Decision Sparks National Outrage and Calls for Judicial Reform in Hungary

Amidst widespread public backlash over a controversial pardon she granted to an individual convicted as an accomplice in a child sexual abuse case, Hungary’s conservative president has resigned. Katalin Novak, aged 46, announced in a televised address on Saturday, ending her tenure as president, which began in 2022. Her resignation follows over a week of escalating public anger triggered by revelations that she had granted a presidential pardon in April 2023 to a man involved in concealing a series of child sexual abuses within a state-operated children’s facility.

Novak’s resignation marked an unusual instance of political upheaval within Hungary’s ruling nationalist party, Fidesz, which has maintained a dominant position with a constitutional majority since 2010 under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Fidesz has faced criticism for eroding democratic institutions and manipulating electoral processes and media to its advantage.

A close ally of Orban and former vice president of Fidesz, Novak previously served as Hungary’s minister for families before assuming the presidency. Known for her vocal advocacy of traditional family values and child protection, Novak made history as Hungary’s first female president and the youngest individual to hold the office.

However, her presidency came to an abrupt end following her controversial decision to grant a pardon to a man convicted in 2018 for pressuring victims to retract allegations of sexual abuse by the director of a state-run institution. The director had been sentenced to eight years for abusing numerous children between 2004 and 2016.

Explaining her decision on Saturday, Novak admitted to an error in judgment, stating that she granted clemency based on incomplete information and a belief that the convict had not exploited the children’s vulnerability. She acknowledged that her decision to pardon had inadvertently cast doubt on Hungary’s commitment to combating pedophilia.

Judit Varga, another influential figure within Fidesz who had endorsed the pardon as Hungary’s former minister of justice, also faced repercussions. Varga, who was expected to lead Fidesz’s list of candidates in the upcoming European Parliament elections, announced her withdrawal from public life on Saturday. Taking political responsibility for her role in the pardon, Varga declared her resignation from parliament and stepped down as the leader of the European Parliament list.

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