Hungary president faces growing calls to quit over sex-abuse case

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Hungarian President Katalin Novak is under growing pressure to resign as a result of her controversial decision to pardon a man implicated in a sex-abuse scandal last year.

Over 1,000 people gathered in Budapest on Friday to demand the resignation of Novak, a close ally and former family minister of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Hungarian opposition parties have spent the week calling for Novak’s ouster, as well as that of Judit Varga, the former justice minister who signed off on the pardon and is expected to lead the ruling Fidesz party’s list for the European Parliament elections this year.

While it was well known that Novak had pardoned some two dozen people ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Hungary in April 2023, it was only recently disclosed that one of the people who benefitted from the measure was the deputy director of a children’s home who was convicted for covering up for a sexual predator who preyed on its residents.

Novak this week acknowledged that all pardons were divisive, but insisted that she would never pardon a pedophile.

In a bid to quell popular anger linked to the case, Orbán’s Fidesz party on Thursday submitted a constitutional amendment to bar future pardons from in any way benefitting people convicted of committing crimes against children.

Novak was in Qatar attending the Hungary-Kazakhstan match at the World Water Polo Championship and was scheduled to remain in the Gulf state through the weekend.

However, Hungarian media on Saturday reported that her plane had taken off ahead of schedule and appeared to be en route back to Budapest. Hungarian authorities did not clarify if the president had cut her trip short and, if so, why.