Pressure on Orban grows amid child sex abuse scandal

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is facing mounting discontent after it was revealed that President Katalin Novak, who resigned on Feb. 10, pardoned a man convicted of covering up widespread sex abuse at a government-run children's home.

Justice Minister Judit Varga resigned soon after. Furious accusations and infighting have since broken out within Orban's ruling Fidesz party, and protests are planned for Feb. 16, with some calling for Orban's resignation.

The BBC and other outlets have characterized the ongoing scandal as Orban's "biggest challenge in 14 years of uninterrupted Fidesz rule."

Hungarian opposition leaders gathered in front of the prime minister's office on Feb. 15, denouncing Orban's silence on the issue and saying it indicated deeper structural problems within Fidesz.

"Orban's regime has fallen into a moral and political crisis," said Andras Fekete-Gyor of the opposition Momentum party.

As the backlash has grown, the scandal has expanded beyond the controversial pardon into direct criticism of Orban's government and associated cronyism and corruption.

Former Orban ally and Varga's ex-husband, Peter Magyar, released a widely viewed video on Facebook on Feb. 11 denouncing corruption in Fidesz and across Hungary.

"It must be said now that this cannot go on," Magyar said, rhetorically questioning whether Hungarians think it is "normal" that "a few families own half the country."

Read also: Opinion: Orban is plain wrong on Ukraine

Hungary and Ukraine have had a contentious relationship that has worsened since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion. Orban has maintained close ties with Russia, bucking the united front that the EU has tried to present in support of Ukraine.

Hungary has repeatedly opposed Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the European Union and blocked the EU's financial support for Ukraine. Orban previously said that Ukraine is a financially "non-existent" and "no longer sovereign" state due to its "dependence" on international support.

Orban blocked a 50 billion euro ($54 billion) EU financial aid package for Ukraine during an EU summit last December. Orban dropped his opposition to the four-year support package on Feb. 1, explaining his reversal on the grounds that a control mechanism would ensure Hungary's funds "will not end up in Ukraine."

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