Watch: President Novák Quits After Mass Protest in Budapest Condemning Child Sexual Abuse Case Pardon

  • 11 Feb 2024 8:01 AM
Watch: President Novák Quits After Mass Protest in Budapest Condemning Child Sexual Abuse Case Pardon
After coming under increasing pressure for pardoning a man convicted of helping to cover up sexual abuse in a children's home, Hungarian President Katalin Novak resigned on Saturday.

"I made a mistake ... Today is the last day that I address you as a president," Novak said as she announced her resignation on Hungarian state television.

"I made a decision to grant a pardon last April believing that the convict did not abuse the vulnerability of children whom he had overseen. I made a mistake as the pardon and the lack of reasoning was suitable to trigger doubts over the zero tolerance that applies to paedophilia," she continued.

In her announcement she thanked her family and all those who helped in her work, adding, "Thank you for everything to all my friends in all four corners of the world. Hungary is a wonderful country with marvelous people, a good partner, an even better friend and a reliable ally. I am glad that in the past years I could work to raise awareness of this in the world".

“Politics is a tough, sometimes cruel world”, concluded Novák, who ended her TV announcement by saying, “God bless Hungarians”.

László Kövér, the speaker of Hungary’s parliament and a close ally of Orbán, is expected to temporarily fill the president’s responsibilities until a new president is elected.

The scandal caused mass public protests calling for her and former Justice Minister Judit Varga to quit.

Varga, who has been a rising star in the Fidesz party, resigned as a lawmaker straight after the President resigned.

For years by now, Orbán has campaigned to protect children from what he has described as LGBTQ+ activists infiltrating Hungary's schools. 

Also yesterday on Saturday 10 February, Judit Varga - who signed off on the Presidential pardon for the government as Minister of Justice - said via Facebook that she would quit as a Fidesz MP. 

"I resign from public life, I resign my mandate as a lawmaker and also resign the top position on the European party list," Varga announced.

"Hungary can continue to count on me to defend our national interests and values,” she concluded.

Soon after in a social media post, Péter Magyar -  Varga’s ex-husband and a figure with close links to the government - announced that he was resigning his positions in state-owned companies, and wrote: 

“I don’t want for one minute to be a part of a system in which the real people responsible hide behind women’s skirts”.

Statement by Katalin Novák: Speech of resignation

Hungarian Opinion: PM Orbán Tables Constitutional Amendment to Bar Paedophile Offenders from Pardon

A journalist believes the Prime Minister’s announcement is a damage control measure after the widely negative reactions to the news that President Katalin Novák pardoned a man who tried to whitewash a paedophile offender.

Opposition parties demanded the President to resign and held demonstrations in protest as the news of the pardon surfaced last week. Prime Minister Orbán announced on Thursday that he had already tabled a constitutional amendment to ensure that paedophile offenders are not eligible for presidential pardon.

In one of the first media comments on the constitutional amendment, journalist Szabolcs Szerető told ATV television that PM Orbán obviously dissociated himself from President Novák. Szerető added he wouldn’t be surprised if Ms Novák resigned in the near future.

Disavowing the President who was the Prime Minister’s personal choice, Szerető remarked, must have been a painful gesture, but was probably deemed necessary to calm rank-and-file Fidesz supporters who must have been confused by the events, as Fidesz has framed itself over the past years as a strong defender of children against paedophilia and all forms of sexual propaganda.

Meanwhile, Szerető also had doubts about pinpointing one category of offences as unpardonable. ‘What about terrorism, for instance?’ he asked.

Opposition Demands President Novák’s Resignation Over a Controversial Amnesty

A left-wing pundit thinks it was the fault of the ’system’ that President pardoned the helper of a paedophile offender last year. A pro-government columnist believes that the opposition side is more lenient towards paedophilia than the government.

Last week it turned out that the 25 convicted citizens pardoned by President Novák on the occasion of Pope Francis’s visit to Hungary included a man convicted for his attempts to whitewash his boss, the director of an orphanage who had sexually abused children under his care for several years.

Opposition parties immediately called on President Novák to resign and initiated a process to strip her of her title if she doesn’t. Fidesz floor leader Máté Kocsis retorted that the opposition should rather express regret for its refusal to vote for the child protection act (against paedophilia and sexual propaganda).

In Népszava, Zoltán Batka concedes that President Novák has no intention of promoting paedophilia, and nor is former Minister of Justice Judit Varga who countersigned the amnesty. He believes that decision to pardon the man was taken somewhere in the background by unknown influential people and the apparatus of the Justice Ministry ad the Presidential Office is simply not accustomed to question such decisions.

The Minister and the President would even have signed a cake recipe, he writes. He lays the blame at the doorstep of what he defines as a monolithic regime and suggests that the case proves George Soros right as an advocate of an ‘open society’.

On the Mandiner website, István Joó finds it curious that leftist news outlets which were rather relaxed in the past about paedophile offenders as well as the parties connected to them should accuse President Novák of promoting paedophilia.

The man she pardoned, he argues, was not a paedophile himself and had already served eighteen months in jail, after which he was kept under house arrest, before being pardoned.

As examples of opposition leniency towards paedophiles, Joó quotes a statement by a veteran liberal politician who once called sexual relations between teachers and pupils ‘a private matter’ and an article by the 444 web magazine which stated that only a minority of sexual offences against minors were committed by paedophiles.

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Related links

Updated: Opposition Outraged By President For Pardoning Man Convicted Of Abetting Paedophilia In Hungary

Orbán on Paedophiles in Hungary: “They Must Be Cut into Pieces”

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