Two days after the world celebrated International Women’s Day, Hungary voted in its first woman for president on Thursday. Katalin Novak, a political ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban was elected by a two-thirds majority in the nation’s parliament. She becomes not only the first female head of state in the EU member nation, but also its youngest president at age 44.
Novak, who formerly held the position of Minister for Family Affairs, enters the role with a staunchly pro-life and pro-family platform. In her speech before Thursday’s parliamentary vote, Novak said, “We women rear children, care for the ill, cook, do the work of two people if needs be, earn money, teach, win Nobel prizes, clean windows.” She went on to say that “It is thanks to being a woman and not despite it that I want to be a good president of Hungary,” dismissing the idea that she fills the largely ceremonial role as Orban’s puppet.
The new president and social conservative’s reputation owes itself to the economic agenda she administered as family minister. Novak was responsible for large tax breaks and incentives intended to encourage families to have more children. Unafraid of controversy, the young Hungarian also challenged the notion that a decreasing population is better for the environment: “If you don’t have children, for whom do you preserve the planet for? You want to preserve it because you want to give it to your children and grandchildren….you cannot argue with something like that in Hungary.” Measures previously adopted by Novak drew criticism from LGTBQ advocates and sparked clashes within the EU.
During her speech before Hungary’s parliament, Novak condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine as “indefensible and inexplicable.” She hailed the attack as a “destructive virus” and referred to Hungarians’ desire for peace.
The incoming president’s election comes in the midst of Viktor Orban’s reelection campaign and follows the prime minister’s request for Trump’s endorsement ahead of next month’s election. Should Orban lose reelection, Novak is likely to face contention with a member of a different party.