Hungary’s President Resigns Amid Outcry Over Sex Abuse Case Pardon

The president of Hungary, a loyal and largely powerless ally of the country’s authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, resigned on Saturday amid a public outcry over her pardoning of a man implicated in a sex abuse scandal at a children’s home.

President Katalin Novak, an outspoken champion of traditional values and Hungary’s former minister of family affairs, announced her resignation on television, the latest in a series of prominent figures in Mr. Orban’s conservative governing Fidesz party felled by sex scandals.

She quit as president, a mostly ceremonial office she has held since 2022, in response to widespread outrage, including within Fidesz, over recent revelations that a man she pardoned last year had been convicted of covering up sexual abuse at a state-run children’s home.

The man was among more than 20 people pardoned by Ms. Novak last April before a visit to Hungary by Pope Francis.

“I issued a pardon that caused bewilderment and unrest among many people,” Ms. Novak said on Saturday, insisting that she had believed “that the convict did not abuse the vulnerability of children.” That, she said, was “a mistake.”

Her departure is unlikely to dent Mr. Orban’s tight grip on power, but it delivers a blow to Fidesz’s image — carefully nurtured by state and private media outlets controlled by the governing party — as a stalwart defender of Christian values and an enemy of pedophilia, which the government has often linked to efforts by the European Union to protect L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Pledges to defend children against predators have become an increasingly important part of domestic political messaging by Mr. Orban, who has won four general elections in a row and who regularly denounces his critics at home and abroad as “woke globalists” bent on undermining the traditional family.

A number of Fidesz politicians, including a powerful mayor captured on video taking part in an orgy with prostitutes on a yacht, have been embroiled in sex scandals in recent years. The most prominent of these was Jozsef Szajer, a Fidesz member of the European Parliament who helped rewrite Hungary’s Constitution to include a ban on same-sex marriage. He resigned in 2020 after being arrested by Belgian police officers for violating Covid restrictions by attending an all-male orgy in Brussels and then trying to flee down a drainpipe.

On the defensive over Ms. Novak’s pardon of an accomplice in a child sex abuse case, Fidesz on Thursday proposed amending Hungary’s Constitution to prevent future pardons from being granted to anyone convicted in connection with crimes against children.

“For pedophile offenders, there is no mercy!” Mr. Orban said.

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