Orbán addresses Hungary in first appearance since country's president quit in a scandal

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual "State of Hungary" speech in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday,
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual "State of Hungary" speech in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, Copyright Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP
By Euronews with AP
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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán aimed to address the political fallout from a presidential pardon scandal. During his annual state of the nation address on Saturday, marking his first public appearance since Hungary's president, his ally, resigned a week prior.

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The nationalist, Orbán faces mounting pressure from various directions, due to his confrontational stance on the international stage causing growing frustration among his European Union and NATO allies.

At the same time, the Hungarian public is outraged over a pardon issued by the president to a convict in a child sexual abuse case.

In his speech commemorating the 25th anniversary of his inaugural address to the nation during his initial term as prime minister in 1999, Orbán promptly acknowledged President Katalin Novák's recent resignation, saying that 2024 "could not have begun any worse" and characterising her departure as a "nightmare" for the nation.

International news organisations, including The Associated Press, and Hungary's independent media outlets were barred from attending the address.

Orbán tried to mitigate concerns regarding the scandal, which has rocked his nationalist Fidesz party in recent weeks, affirming that Novák had made the right decision by stepping down.

He remarked, "Novák’s resignation was 'correct, but a big loss for Hungary,'" asserting that her decision was necessary in the circumstances. "What happened is what needed to happen in this situation. Good people also make bad decisions."

Cracks within Fidesz emerged following revelations that Novák, a close ally of Orbán, had granted a presidential pardon to an individual convicted of concealing a series of child sexual abuse incidents perpetrated by the director of a state-run orphanage.

The disclosures prompted three resignations within Orbán’s inner circle, including former Justice Minister Judit Varga, who co-signed the pardon, and ignited public outrage, culminating in tens of thousands of protesters gathering in Budapest on Friday to demand change.

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