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Transnational Thursday for February 15, 2024

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

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I present to you a cascading scandal that is 100% culture war fodder:

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. [...] 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.

Child-abuse fiasco could delay Hungary's Nato vote

Meanwhile, the Novák affair cost Orbán a key MP at a delicate time in EU politics — Judit Varga.

Varga also resigned and quit politics on Saturday because she had countersigned the paedophile's pardon in her former role as justice minister.

She had been expected to lead Orbán's European Parliament election line-up in June and was a potential future Hungarian EU commissioner, said Végh.

Varga was "very popular, very high profile — she knew Europe and she spoke foreign languages," added Végh.

The Novák-Varga female duo was also meant to make Orbán's Fidesz party look less misogynistic at a time when it was courting new allies, such as Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni.

"It was important for the image of the party both domestically and internationally," said Végh.

"They've been hyping these women and exclusively them — I don't see anyone else who could replace them," said Vadai, the opposition MP.

But there was no way for Varga to make a comeback, experts said — not least because Varga's ex-husband, Péter Magyar, went on a social-media rampage last weekend accusing Fidesz of a cover-up and of "hiding behind women's skirts".

Hungarian bishop apologises over opinion given in support of presidential pardon

Reformed Bishop Zoltán Balog said on Tuesday that he had been asked to give his opinion and agreed with supporting a presidential pardon granted to Endre K but added that the decision was not made by him. Balog, who is pastoral president of the Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church, said in a video message that he had made a mistake, he expressed regret and apologised to all affected persons.

Balog reacted to recent press allegations according to which it had been on his advice that Katalin Novak, who resigned from the post of President of Hungary on Saturday, granted presidential pardon to a former deputy head of a children’s home in Bicske, near Budapest. Balog said the request for presidential pardon had not been submitted by him but he was one of the persons whose opinion was asked about it. “Based on preliminary opinions and information about him [Endre K] and his life, I agreed with granting him pardon, but I was wrong and I made a mistake,” he said. “I apologise to everyone I must apologise to,” he added.