Katalin Novák to be next president of Hungary

March 10. 2022. – 12:19 PM



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János Áder’s mandate as President of the Hungarian Republic expires on 10 May, and his successor will be Katalin Novák, former Minister for Family Affairs.

According to Hungary’s Fundamental Law, any Hungarian citizen older than 35 years of age may be eligible for the post of President. However, in order for someone’s name to be added to the ballot, they need to have the recommendation of at least one-fifth (40) of the MPs. There were two candidates who managed to reach this number this year: Fidesz recommended Katalin Novák, former Minister for Family Affairs, and the majority of the opposition MPs recommended economist and Oxford professor, Péter Róna.

Róna, who fled Hungary as a child during the 1956 revolution has previously said that

“Hungarian society has become deeply divided, full of arguments, fits, and hatred towards one another. It is this state of affairs that I would endeavour to resolve if I were president, although I am fully aware that I will not be elected.”

Mrs Novák will be Hungary’s first female president, and being 44, the youngest one as well, since the so-called “system change” in 1989.

Hungary’s president is chosen by Parliament for 5 years, and this mandate can be extended only once, thus the longest a person can fill this position is ten years. Since 1989, only Árpád Göncz and János Áder were chosen for the post twice.

“I am preparing for the demanding task of representing Hungary, of serving the whole Hungarian nation with faith, soul, and heart. I respectfully accept the nomination for the role of President. I shall remain who I am.”

-Novák wrote on her Facebook page a few days before Christmas, following Viktor Orbán’s announcement at a press conference that Fidesz is recommending her for the role.

Answering Telex’s question at the time, the Prime Minister revealed that Novák’s name came up within Fidesz’ presidency, and in a later interview he said that he was the one who approached her with the request to accept the task.

A few days later, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister leading the Prime Minister’s Office slightly disrupted the construction of Novák’s presidential nomination story, when he said that Orbán had originally asked Speaker of the House and president of Fidesz’ National Electoral Committee, László Kövér to accept the post – but he refused, and thus they opted for the Minister of Family Affairs.

Opposition politicians have criticized Novák’s nomination primarily because of her obvious loyalty to Fidesz – she has often worn earrings with either “Fidesz” or “OV” inscribed in them. Péter Márki-Zay’s opinion is that the former Minister for Family Affairs “is even less likely to oppose Orbán than János Áder was”, and that, as former vice president of Fidesz she does not meet the requirement that the head of state should be a person of public stature, non-partisan, one who expresses the unity of the nation.

She responded to the opposition’s criticism a few days later in an interview given to pro-government Index:

“Those who say that I will only be a puppet in this position are not only belittling me, but all women. They assume that it is impossible for a woman to be a sovereign public figure making independent decisions.”

In the interview she mentioned that even as President, the fate of Hungarian children and families would stay close to her heart. While in recent years János Áder has put an emphasis on standing for environmental protection and sustainability, Novák emphasizes that children are the next generation and it is for them that we are to preserve Earth.

“Our compatriots living beyond our borders are part of our common Hungarian future, and so are single-parent families and families raising children with disabilities, as well as Roma communities which are catching up. I will pay extra attention to them.” – she said.

Novák, who speaks fluent English, French and German has worked in various positions within the Fidesz-lead government in the past decade. Among others, she has been State Secretary of International Relations, State Secretary for Family and Youth Affairs, Foreign Affairs Secretary of Fidesz and between 2017-2021, she was also Fidesz’ Vice-President.

“In some ways our lives will remain the same they have been until now. Part of this is that in the evenings I bake chocolate rolls for my family. I plan to be an active head of state, with the publicity that this role deserves.”

The new President of Hungary will officially take office on 10 May.