During a live television broadcast, the president of Hungary made the decision to resign following intense backlash over her pardon of a man convicted of concealing a child sexual abuse case.
President Novak’s controversial act of clemency involved freeing an individual who had coerced children into retracting their accusations of sexual abuse against a director of a state-operated children’s home.
As protests demanding her resignation gained momentum throughout Hungary, Ms. Novak issued an apology, recognizing her error in granting the pardon.
Judit Varga, the former minister of justice who authorized the pardon, has also stepped down from her recent position leading the European elections campaign for Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party.
The catalyst behind these resignations occurred when the Hungarian media disclosed the names of 25 people pardoned by President Novak in April of the previous year, a list made public during Pope Francis’ visit to Hungary.
On the list of convicts was the deputy director of a children’s home near Budapest, who had been jailed for three years after forcing children to retract claims of abuse against the director of the home.
The director had himself been jailed for eight years over abusing children at the government-run facility.
Hungarian opposition parties and protesters had been demanding her resignation, but Ms Novak’s decision to do so was as sudden as it was unexpected.
Speaking in an address live on television, Ms Novak said she granted the pardon in the belief the convicted man “did not exploit the vulnerability of the children under his oversight”.
She apologised to victims who “might have felt that I did not stand up for them”.
“I made a mistake, as the pardon and the lack of reasoning were conducive to triggering doubts about the zero tolerance that applies to paedophilia,” Ms Novak added.
In addition to the resignation of Ms Novak, another leading female politician from Fidesz has also resigned over the same case.
Judit Varga, who was minister of justice at the time of the pardon, countersigned the clemency decision.
The double resignation of its two most prominent female politicians is a serious setback for Mr Orban and his party, with Ms Varga due to head the Fidesz list in the European elections in June.