Katalin Novák Elected as Hungary’s First Female President

Hungary’s parliament has elected the ruling Fidesz party lawmaker Katalin Novák as the country’s first female president, buttressing the nationalist agenda of the prime minister, Viktor Orbán, which has triggered acrimony with the EU.

Novák, 44, has served as deputy chair of Orbán’s Fidesz and was family affairs minister in charge of his economic support agenda for the middle class, including subsidies for housing, state-backed home loans and tax cuts.

Analysts say Orbán, who faces a close election in less than four weeks, had sought to appeal to female voters in picking Novák for the largely ceremonial role of president for a five-year term.

Novák, who has backed Orbán’s condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, will succeed János Áder, another Fidesz party stalwart, after winning 137 votes, based on a tally on parliament’s website. The opposition candidate Péter Róna received 51 votes.

In a speech before the vote, Novák, a multilingual economist, said she would defend the constitution, drafted and approved by Fidesz, which has cemented key planks of Orbán’s conservative agenda.

In remarks published by the state news agency MTI, Novák said one of her first trips would be to the Polish capital, Warsaw, home to one of Orbán’s key European allies, the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS).

In power since 2010, Orbán has eliminated nearly all domestic checks on his power and has filled key posts with loyalists, which critics say could make it harder for the opposition to push through its agenda in case of an election victory.

In an interview with the news website index.hu in December, Novák rejected allegations that she would be an instrument used to extend Orbán’s power.

“Those saying that I would be just a puppet in this position degrade not me personally, but women in general. They cannot assume that a woman can be a sovereign public officer capable of making autonomous decisions,” Novak was quoted as saying.

Orbán has adopted an increasingly conservative political agenda to shore up his domestic support, including a crackdown on independent media and measures to curb the rights of LGBTQ+ people, which have led to clashes with the EU.

SOURCE: Reuters