Hungary’s president Katalin Novak has resigned after two years in office.
Novak announced her resignation on Saturday, February 8, 2024, after coming under mounting pressure for pardoning a man convicted as an accomplice for helping cover up a sex abuse case in a children’s home.
“I issued a pardon that caused bewilderment and unrest for many people,” Novák said on Saturday. “I made a mistake.”
At least 1,000 people protested in the country’s capital on Friday demanding her resignation. Hungarian opposition parties had also demanded she leave office.
Novak decided to pardon some two dozen people in April 2023, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis, among them the deputy director of a children’s home who helped the former director of the home hide his crimes.
Endre K. was sentenced in 2022 to three years and four months in prison and was barred for a further five years from all activities and occupations in connection with minors.
But due to the Novak’s pardon he was set free and is allowed, in theory, to return to his profession.
“It is hard to find the words when your decision to show mercy deprives victims of due justice,” one of the victims, Mert Pop, wrote on Facebook, calling on Novak to offer an explanation.
Novak’s resignation came as a rare piece of political turmoil for Hungary’s nationalist governing party, Fidesz, which has ruled with a constitutional majority since 2010. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Fidesz has been accused of dismantling democratic institutions and rigging the electoral system and media in its favor.
Novak, a key Orban ally and a former vice president of Fidesz, served as Hungary’s minister for families until her appointment to the presidency. She has been outspoken in advocating for family values and the protection of children.
She was the first female president in Hungary and the youngest person to hold the office.