Hungary's President resigns, Orban faces his biggest political scandal in years

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Former minister influenced Novak to pardon pedophile's accomplice, investigation reveals

Hungary's President Katalin Novák resigned on Saturday after pardoning a convicted individual, Endre K, who was involved in a sex abuse cover-up at a children's home. After 444. hu reported the story, ignited a firestorm of criticism across Hungary resulting in a protest on Friday. In her televised address, Novák acknowledged her misstep, expressing regret and apologized to victims who felt marginalized by her actions.

After facing mounting pressure from opposition figures urging Novák's resignation, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán swiftly introduced a constitutional amendment in parliament aimed at restricting the president's authority to grant pardons in cases involving crimes against minors. "There's no clemency for pedophile offenders. This is my conviction," Orbán declared in a post on his Facebook page.

Katalin NovákFotó: SANDOR PALACE/AFP

Former justice minister Judit Varga, who co-signed the highly controversial pardon, submitted her resignation from both her parliamentary seat and her role as the lead candidate for the ruling Fidesz party in the upcoming European Parliament elections. Novák and Varga stood out as prominent female politicians within the predominantly male-dominated Fidesz party. Novák made history in May 2022 when became Hungary's first female president. 

According to a public opinion poll conducted by the pro-government Nezőpont Institute, 70% of respondents approved the president's decision. Orbán, who had championed the appointments of Novák and Varga, is yet to publicly address their resignations.

In a joint investigative piece by Direkt 36 and Telex, multiple government insiders and individuals with ties to the presidential office said that Zoltán Balog, the head of the General Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church and a longtime mentor to Novák, had significant influence in the clemency case. These sources revealed that Balog played a pivotal role in advising the President to grant clemency to Endre K. Sources confirmed this information to 444. hu, adding that Balog has an old acquaintance with Endre K.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Balog took to the website of the Reformed Church to share a video addressing the recently concluded Council meeting. In the video, he revealed himself as the convener of the assembly, attended by four-fifths of its officers, convened to deliberate on his tenure as the pastoral president of the General Synod, overseeing the Hungarian Reformed Church. During the meeting, Balog provided a detailed account of his involvement in the clemency case concerning the former deputy director of the Bicske Children's Home. The session culminated in a clandestine vote, with 86 percent of attendees expressing their confidence in his leadership. The council urged Balog to reassess his public position as synod president. In response, Balog announced his agreement to their request, committing to keep his position within the church. Asserting the church's independence, Balog vehemently denied any attempts to link it with the clemency case. He also stated that he was not the initiator of the appeal to the Head of State on behalf of the deputy director, Endre K. "The petition was not submitted by me, I did not submit it," he said. However, he acknowledged his approval of K.'s plea for clemency, saying "I was wrong, I made a mistake."

On Friday, Balog handed in his resignation as head of General Synod, calling the case a "witch-hunt"."The witch-hunt, the hysteria, will not stop even if I am not there" he told the members of the Church. 

Former Justice minister's ex-husband gives bombshell interview for Partizan

Péter Magyar, former husband of Judit Varga and a prominent conservative figure with deep ties to the Hungarian government, made serious allegations against senior figures within Fidesz. In a bombshell YouTube interview on the Partizan channel, he accused individuals in the ruling party of using Novák and Varga as shields, while describing a part of the government as people solely interested in enriching themselves. "Over time, I came to the stark realization that all of this is merely a political facade, a veneer designed to conceal the machinations of those in power and amass vast fortunes," Magyar wrote in a Facebook post before the interview.

The Partizan interview reached 1,9 million views on YouTube. Magyar recounted purported pressures and threats he endured from government officials. Magyar also stated that Antal Rogán, one of the most powerful ministers, has full control over pro-government and state media narratives. Magyar underscored the level of corruption in the Orban government saying:  “Is it normal that half the country comes to be owned by a couple of families? I think not.” During the explosive interview, he called out several high-profile figures within the Fidesz circles. Before the interview, Magyar resigned from his position at the MBH Bank board.