Almost all Hungarians see Novák, despite her head-of-state status, as a mere puppet under the longtime prime minister. Orbán, after all, is the one calling the shots as far as politics in this Central European state is concerned.
The other person hit by the turmoil is Judit Varga, a Hungarian lawmaker who was to lead the Fidesz party’s list in the European Parliament election in June. Previously justice minister, a role she held until last year, Varga countersigned Novák’s pardon order.
Earlier in the week, Orbán already sensed the danger. In an unusual move, he proposed on Friday a constitutional amendment to rule out criminals involved in children-related cases from future presidential pardons.
But that was deemed too little too late, with the protest going on as planned in the evening. Hundreds of angry Hungarians marched over the landmark Chain Bridge toward the Castle, the president’s residence. They threw teddy bear toys, a symbol of love for the abused children, at the building.
Orbán, whose lit-up monastery-turned-office is just next door, made up his mind that night. Novák cut short her visit to Qatar and flew back to the Hungarian capital, resigning the next day alongside Varga.
Stepping down from the parliament — and her leadership role in the European election — Varga departed just four months before the EU vote, after which Orbán could potentially enjoy a bigger say in European affairs if the far-right parties do well.