Hungarian president resigns after child abuser pardon controversy

Hungarian President Katalin Novák announced in a televised message on Saturday Feb. 10, 2024, that she would step down from the presidency, an office she has held since 2022. (Photo by Andrew Medichini / AP)

Hungarian President Katalin Novak announced her resignation Saturday following outrage sparked in the central European country by a decision to pardon a man implicated in child sexual abuse case.

“I am resigning my post,” said the close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, acknowledging that she had made “a mistake”.

“I apologise to those who I hurt and all the victims who may have had the impression that I did not support them. I am, I was and I will remain in favour of protecting children and families,” Novak, 46, said.

Novak, a former minister for family policy became the first woman to hold the essentially ceremonial role of president in March 2022.

The controversy was sparked by the pardon given last April, amid a visit by Pope Francis to Budapest, to a former deputy director of a children’s home who helped to cover up his boss sexually abusing kids and adolescents there.

Since the independent news site 444 revealed the decision last week, the country’s opposition has been calling for Novak’s resignation.

Minutes after her announcement, another ally of Orban, Judit Varga, also announced her “withdrawal from public life” for having given her approval for the pardon as justice minister — a post she quit in order to lead a European Parliament election bid.

“I renounce my mandate as an MP and the head of the list for the European Parliament,” she said on Facebook.