Who is Katalin Novak – Hungarian president who resigned over child abuse pardon? | World News - Hindustan Times

Who is Katalin Novak – Hungarian president who resigned over child abuse case pardon?

Feb 11, 2024 02:37 PM IST

A massive controversy erupted after Katalin Novak pardoned a man convicted of helping to cover up sexual abuse in a children's home.

Hungarian President Katalin Novak, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, announced her resignation on Saturday after outrage over a pardon granted to a man implicated in a child sexual abuse case. Soon afterwards another Orban supporter, former justice minister Judit Varga, announced she was withdrawing from public life over the affair.

Outgoing Hungary's President Katalin Novak.(AFP)
Outgoing Hungary's President Katalin Novak.(AFP)

"I am resigning my post," said 46-year-old Katalin Novak, 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," Katalin Novak added.

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"I am, I was and I will remain in favour of protecting children and families," she said.

Who is Katalin Novak?

  • Katalin Novak became the first president woman of Hungary in March 2022.
  • Katalin Novak, who has been temporarily replaced by the Speaker of Parliament Laszlo Kover, was named last year by Forbes magazine as the most influential woman in Hungarian public life.
  • Katalin Novak is Conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban's former family minister. She was also the youngest person to ever hold the position.
  • Katalin Novak's resignation from the presidential post was a rare instance of political unrest for Fidesz, the nationalist party that has governed Hungary since 2010 with a constitutional majority.

What's the sexual abuse scandal?

A massive controversy erupted after was revealed last week that President Katalin Novak had given clemency to a man jailed for forcing children to retract sexual abuse claims against a director of a state-run children's home. Katalin Novak resigned after her presidential pardon was first reported by local news site 444.hu. He had helped to cover up his boss's sexual abuse of the children in their charge.

The revelation caused a public uproar and demands from the opposition for her and former justice minister Judit Varga who approved the pardon, to quit. Judit Varga, who has been a rising star in Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party, resigned as a lawmaker on Saturday.

The scandal was a rare setback for Viktor Orban, who has been in power since 2010, and who faces European parliament elections just as the country emerges from an inflation crisis.

Viktor Orban has for years campaigned to protect children from what he has described as LGBTQ activists roaming the nation's schools. This has been one of several issues over which Viktor Orban has clashed with the European Commission.

Since news site 444 revealed the decision last week, the opposition had been calling for Katalin Novak's resignation.

On Friday evening demonstrators gathered outside the presidential palace and three presidential advisers quit their posts.

Katalin Novak, who had been in Qatar to attend Hungary's match against Kazakhstan at the World Water Polo Championships on Friday, swiftly returned to Budapest. As soon as her plane had landed she emerged and announced her resignation.

(With inputs from agencies)

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