Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Viktor Orban-led Hungary in crisis after President Katalin Novak resigns over pardon outcry

But Novák and Varga’s resignations have divided Orbán’s supporters and led some to believe that they were sacrificed to shield the prime minister from the political consequences of the scandal, said Dániel Hegedus, an analyst and Central Europe fellow for the German Marshall Fund.

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The resignations “go against the logic of how loyalty was built into the Orbán regime until now,” Hegedus said. “It’s dividing the Fidesz core electorate on whether these two politicians should really have been sacrificed.”

Novák, a former vice president of Fidesz, served as the minister for families until her appointment to the presidency in 2022.

She has been outspoken in advocating for the traditional family and the protection of children, a cornerstone of Fidesz’s image as a defender of Christian conservative values.

Hungary’s politicians and think-tanks have hosted centre-right politicians in the US and Australia, and made diplomatic visits to Papua New Guinea, which Novak visited in October.

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But Novák’s presidential pardon struck at the heart of her party’s reputation and threatened to alienate parts of its conservative voter base.

“I think they clearly saw in their internal polling that the situation is becoming dangerous, and critical electoral groups are rejecting the behaviour of the former president,” Hegedus said of Fidesz.

Some of Orbán’s biggest rivals are pushing for further consequences.

Democratic Coalition, the largest opposition party, has called for direct presidential elections instead of having Novák’s successor appointed by Fidesz’s majority in parliament.

In a Facebook post, Ferenc Gyurcsány, the leader of Democratic Coalition and prime minister from 2004 to 2009, vowed that two of Orbán’s closest allies stepping down would not be enough to put the controversy to rest.

“The resignation of Novák and Varga did not close the case, it opened it up,” he wrote.

But the leader of Fidesz’s parliamentary caucus, Máté Kocsis, has rejected the notion of a direct election.

“It doesn’t work that when the left is in power, they elect the president, and when we are in power, the people elect the president,” Kocsis said.

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