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Weeklies on the paedophile pardon scandal and the future of the EU

February 12th, 2024

Weeklies went to print before Prime Minister Orbán pledged to amend the constitution, to make it impossible for the President to pardon crimes related to paedophilia. The issue is only analysed by opposition-leaning commentators, some of whom predicted President Novák’s and even former Justice Minister Judit Nagy’s resignation. The main topic covered by pro-government weeklies is what they perceive to be the wrong direction in which the European Union is moving.

In the wake of the scandal over her decision to pardon a man sentenced for trying to whitewash a paedophile offender. President Novák admitted her mistake and announced her resignation on Saturday. Former Justice Minister Judit Varga who countersigned the pardon also decided to withdraw from politics.

In his Hetek editorial, László Semsei believes President Novák should have explained to the public why she pardoned a man who tried to whitewash his boss, the director of an orphanage guilty of sexual crimes against the children in his care. (See BudaPost, February 8 and 10.) He writes that the victims now rightly feel abandoned by the state. In the headline to its cover story, Hetek the clemency decision of the President ’unjust’.

In one of its customary twin editorials, Magyar Narancs takes the case as proof that leading officials within the administration don’t even think of reasoning on their own, let alone acting independently. The editors accuse President Novák and former Justice Minister Varga who countersigned the decision of implicitly encouraging paedophile abuses with their act of pardon.

In Heti Világgazdaság, János Dobszay accuses the President of having acted immorally if she was familiar with the matter. If she wasn’t, he continues, that makes her position even less defensible. By not explaining why she pardoned the man, he writes, she opened the gates to wide speculation about those ‘influential lobbies’ that convinced her to pardon the helper of a paedophile offender.

In his Élet és Irodalom front-page editorial, István Váncsa remarks that President Novák has ’by now managed to outrage an entire society’ and her only way out would be to resign and withdraw to a convent for the rest of her life. However, he continues, admitting the gravity of her error would cast a shadow on the ’king maker’ who of course never makes mistakes. Meanwhile, he also pokes fun at the opposition whose representatives called on followers to demonstrate with teddy bears with their mouths taped, as if that would change anything. And these are the people who are supposed to take over the reins of government one day, he complains.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető hopes that President Novák will soon be forced to resign. She cannot possibly hope to carry the burden of her decision until the end of her term, he suggests, and nor can Judit Varga remain the lead candidate of Fidesz for the European Parliamentary elections in Junes. The Prime Minister will find it painful to take such decisions, he predicts, but will have no other choice.

Commenting on the revolt of farmers throughout western Europe in Demokrata, András Bencsik thinks one of the main reasons for the protests is Brussel’s decision to let the European market be flooded by Ukrainian grain and poultry which are cheaper because of subsidised fuel and production methods that do not follow the strict rules in force within the European Union. In addition, he continues, the EU is sending huge amounts of money to Ukraine without any concerns about the rule of law in that country. By contrast, he remarks, Hungary is deprived of much of the funds it is entitled to because, as he sees it, it prevents ‘suspicious missionaries’ from approaching its children; opposes mass clandestine immigration; insists on its Christian roots and prefers peace to war. He hopes the next European elections will bring changes in European politics.

In a similar vein but less passionate style, Mandiner’s Mátyás Kohán warns that far-reaching environmental reforms in the economy might result in a prolonged though mild recession in Europe. Dutch, Austrian and Finnish voters might accept to be forced to put up with this, due to the high living standards they enjoy, he explains, but the populations of Baltic, Central European and Balkan countries would like to approach those living standards and thus cannot say goodbye to economic growth. If a whole series of countries east of the Oder River refuse a certain policy, Kohán concludes,, then that policy cannot be pushed through in the European Union. A huge storm is in the making in Europe, he predicts.