Hungary’s political landscape is rocked as President Katalin Novak steps down amidst mounting criticism for her decision to pardon a man convicted in a child sexual abuse case. The move follows intense pressure from both the public and opposition parties, culminating in a wave of protests demanding her resignation.

In a televised address announcing her departure, Novak admitted to making a grave error in judgment. She acknowledged granting a pardon to a convicted individual involved in concealing a case of sexual abuse in a children’s home, expressing remorse for undermining the zero-tolerance policy towards paedophilia. Her decision, made in April 2023, sparked widespread outrage and eroded public trust in her leadership.

The controversial pardon was granted ahead of Pope Francis’s visit, raising questions about the integrity of the justice system and prompting calls for accountability. Among those pardoned was the deputy director of a children’s home implicated in covering up the misconduct of the former director, Endre K.

Endre K, sentenced to three years and four months in prison in 2022, faced a five-year ban from working with minors. However, Novak’s intervention saw him released and allowed to resume his professional activities, sparking further outrage and condemnation.

Novak’s resignation marks a significant moment in Hungarian politics, particularly for Fidesz, the nationalist party led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Novak, a former family minister and close ally of Orban, made history as the youngest and first female president of Hungary. Her departure highlights the rare instance of political unrest within the ruling party, which has maintained a stronghold on governance since 2010.