Hungarian President Novak pardoned a person who knew about the pedophile scandal. The Fidesz politician resigned on Saturday.

People carry a sign on the

Demanding Novák's resignation: protesters in Budapest on February 9 Photo: Denes Erdos/ap

VIENNA taz | Hungarian President Katalin Novák resigned on Saturday in front of the cameras. The reason was a controversial pardon in connection with a pedophile scandal at an orphanage. “I have made a mistake. The amnesty decision and the lack of justification would probably raise doubts,” she said in her resignation statement.

The case on which the scandal is based took place in an orphanage in the small town of Bicske, 30 kilometers west of Budapest. According to the court ruling, the deputy director of the house had covered up the pedophile crimes of his boss for years and forced victims of abuse to give false statements. For this, he and the director of the house were sentenced to several years in prison. However, in April 2023, President Novák pardoned the deputy head without justification and hid it from the public. The amnesty was apparently related to a visit by Pope Francis to the same orphanage at the same time.

The controversial pardon was not published in the independent online newspaper until early February. acquaintance. Shortly afterwards, representatives of civil society demonstrated in front of the Presidential Palace in Budapest, where they displayed a banner with the text “Protector of pedophiles”. Other demonstrations followed, the largest last Friday with several thousand participants. The opposition, including the Momentum and Jobbik parties, also accused Novák of hypocrisy and called for his resignation.

Judit Varga, Hungarian Minister of Justice until July 2023, is also retiring from her political duties. As such, she had endorsed the criminal's pardon. Since last summer, she wants to focus on running as Fidesz's main candidate in next June's EU elections. Her party must now look for a replacement.

Orbán's party is committed to protecting children, at least supposedly

During his presidency, Novák was largely loyal to Orbán. As Family Minister, she defended the Hungarian government's ultra-conservative image of women and families. After criticism emerged, Orbán distanced himself from it. Apparently, he does not want to risk the case causing an even bigger stir, since his Fidesz party has been defending children's rights for years.

In 2021, the government passed a “child protection law” that criminalized homosexual content in media accessible to minors. The reason: the supposed “protection against pedophilia.” With a presidential veto, Novák managed to have the law slightly weakened. However, many observers saw this as a public relations stunt in Orbán's interests. In the end, the highly controversial law was approved.

The background and people who knew about the now known pardon are still unclear. Novák's resignation is an “important consequence”, but “real answers” are still missing, he wrote on Sunday.

Andrea Pető, a political scientist at the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna, sees significant damage to Orbán's ideological base. “The case demonstrates the importance and power that the remaining independent press still has in Hungary,” he tells taz. Orbán's great strength is also his ability to overcome any crisis for his own benefit. It is not at all clear whether he will be able to continue maintaining his anti-gender campaign.