Hungarian president resigns amid outcry over pardon in sex abuse case

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Hungary’s president, a staunch and largely powerless ally of the country’s authoritarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, resigned Saturday amid a public outcry over his pardon of a man implicated in a sex abuse scandal at a children’s home.

President Katalin Novak, a staunch defender of traditional values ​​and former Hungarian family minister, announced her resignation on television, the latest in a series of prominent figures from Mr Orban’s conservative Fidesz party, which was brought down by sex scandals.

She left her post as president, a largely ceremonial role she has held since 2022, in response to widespread outrage, including within Fidesz, over recent revelations that a man she pardoned last year the latter had been convicted of covering up sexual abuse at a state-run children’s home. .

The man was one of around 20 people pardoned by Ms Novak last April in court. visit to Hungary by Pope Francis.

“I granted a pardon that caused confusion and turmoil among many people,” Ms. Novak said on Saturday, insisting that she believed “the condemned man did not abuse the children’s vulnerability “. It was, she said, “a mistake.”

His departure is unlikely to undermine Mr Orban’s grip on power, but it is a blow to Fidesz’s image – carefully nurtured by state and private media controlled by the ruling party – as a loyal defender of Christian values ​​and enemy of pedophilia, which the government has often linked to European Union efforts to protect LGBTQ rights.

Pledges to defend children from predators have become an increasingly important part of the national political message of Mr. Orban, who has won four consecutive general elections and who regularly denounces his critics at home and abroad as “woke globalists” determined to undermine traditional principles. family.

A number of Fidesz politicians, including one Powerful mayor filmed having orgy with prostitutes on yacht, have been involved in sex scandals in recent years. The most important of them was Jozsef Szajer, Fidesz member of the European Parliament who helped rewrite the Hungarian Constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriage. He resigned in 2020 after being arrested by Belgian police officers for violating Covid restrictions by attending an all-male orgy in Brussels and then trying to escape down a drain.

On the defensive over the pardon granted by Ms. Novak to an accomplice in a child sexual abuse case, Fidesz proposed Thursday to amend the Hungarian Constitution to prevent future pardons from being granted to anyone found guilty of crimes against children.

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