The president of Hungary, Katalin Novák, very close to ultranationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, announced her resignation this Saturday after a week of controversy over a pardon she granted to a director of a children’s home who tried to hide cases of pedophilia.
“I ask for forgiveness from those whom I have hurt. Today I speak to you for the last time as president. I resign from my position,” Novák said in a video broadcast on public television, after returning early from a visit to Qatar.
The head of state, a former Minister of Family Affairs, acknowledged having “made a mistake” by pardoning a deputy director of a children’s home, whose director abused several minors for years.
Shortly after Novák’s announcement, former Justice Minister Judit Varga, who had signed the controversial pardon last year, announced that she was retiring from politics.
“I assume political responsibility for having signed the pardon. I am retiring from public life,” announced the former head of Justice, also very close to Orbán.
He added that he will also leave the Hungarian Parliament and will not lead the list of the ruling Fidesz party in the European elections next June, as planned.
The controversial pardon, granted in April 2023 on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Budapest, was discovered by the press last week.
Since then, opposition organizations and political parties have called for the president’s resignation, considering this pardon as “unacceptable.”
In response to the controversy, Orbán proposed this week a constitutional amendment that would prohibit future pardons of those convicted of crimes against children, which many already interpreted as an indirect criticism of Novák and Varga’s decision.
On Friday afternoon, thousands of Hungarians gathered in front of the presidential headquarters in Buda Castle, calling for Novák’s resignation, believing that she is no longer worthy of the position.
The presidential position in Hungary has primarily representative attributes, although it also includes signing pardons for prisoners at the proposal of the Government.