The announcement follows outrage over Novak’s pardon of a man convicted in a child sex abuse case.
Hungarian President Katalin Novak has resigned.
Novak announced her resignation on Saturday after coming under increasing pressure for pardoning a man convicted as an accomplice for helping to cover up a sexual abuse case at a children’s home.
“I made a mistake… Today is the last day I address you as president,” she said in a speech broadcast on state television.
“I decided to grant a pardon last April because I believed that the convict had not taken advantage of the vulnerability of children he had supervised. “I made a mistake because the pardon and lack of reasoning were capable of raising doubts about the zero tolerance that applies to pedophilia,” she added.
At least a thousand people protested in the country’s capital on Friday, demanding her resignation. Hungarian opposition parties had also demanded that she leave office.
Novak decided to pardon about 20 people in April 2023, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis, including the deputy director of a children’s home who helped the home’s former director cover up his crimes.
Endre K was sentenced to three years and four months in prison in 2022 and was banned from all activities and professions related to minors for a further five years.
But thanks to the Novak’s pardon, he was released and, in theory, allowed to return to his profession.
“It’s hard to find the words when you decide to show mercy depriving the victims of justice,” one of the victims, Mert Pop, wrote on Facebook, calling on Novak to provide an explanation.
On Tuesday, Novak said she would never pardon a pedophile, including in this case. She said the reasoning behind her decision was not public and that all pardons were by their nature divisive.
First female president
Novak is an ally and former Family Minister of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban. She was also the first female president in Hungary’s history and the youngest person to ever hold this office.
Her resignation comes in a rare bit of political turmoil for Hungary’s nationalist ruling party Fidesz, which has ruled with a constitutional majority since 2010.
Also involved in the pardon was Judit Varga, another important Fidesz figure who, as then Minister of Justice of Hungary, endorsed the pardon. Varga was expected to lead Fidesz’s list of European Parliament candidates in this summer’s elections.
But on Saturday, Varga announced in a Facebook post that she would take political responsibility for approving the pardon, and would “retire from public life, relinquish my seat as an MP and also as leader of the EP list put down.”
On Thursday, Orban announced a constitutional amendment to ban convicted child sex offenders from receiving clemency.
Although Orban did not directly discuss the Novak controversy, he said there should be no “mercy for pedophile offenders.”
“On behalf of the government, I have submitted a constitutional amendment to make it impossible to pardon the perpetrator of a crime against a minor child,” he said in a video on his Facebook page.
He added that his first thought would be to “cut someone in half or into pieces” if he touched any of his five children or six grandchildren.