The Hungarian National Assembly has elected former Family Minister Katalin Novák to become the country’s first-ever female head of state, with Novák herself announcing she would pursue a course of peacemaking in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Novák, 44, won the vote in the Hungarian parliament with 137 votes, while her rival, economist Péter Róna, received 51 votes.
Prior to the vote, Novák gave an impassioned speech condemning the recent Russian invasion of Hungary’s neighbour Ukraine, labelling the conflict, “a war launched by Russia, a war, which cannot be defended, or explained, at all.”
“Hungarians want peace. We, women, do not want to win the war, we want to win the peace. Because it is only in peace that one can prosper, build, plan, smile at one another. As Mother Teresa said: ‘Peace begins with a smile,’” Novak added.
Novak, who served as State Secretary for Family and Youth Affairs and then as the country’s first Family Minister from October 2020 to December of 2021, oversaw Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s extensive pro-family policies that have been credited with increasing the Hungarian birthrate.
“As long as we have our hands and free will, we cannot be subdued. This is the very basis of our sovereignty. And family is the cradle of sovereignty,” Novak said.
“I wish to be a good President of Hungary not despite, but rather because of, being a woman,” Novak stayed and added, “As a mother and as a wife I will strive for this peace, understanding and security. I also wish to stand for peace as president.”
Novák will take office on the 10th of May this year, over a month after Hungary’s parliamentary elections which are set to take place on April 3rd.
Peter Marki-Zay, the leader of the broad coalition of parties united against Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, criticised the candidacy of President-elect Novak, arguing she was “unfit” to be Hungarian president due to her close ties to Prime Minister Orbán.
Márki-Zay made headlines last month after a speech in the town of Fonyód in which he admitted that communists and fascists were represented in the opposition coalition. Nearly all recent polls have put Prime Minister Orban’s Fidesz leading the opposition parties, with a Median released earlier this month putting Fidesz six percentage points higher than the opposition.