With the votes of the right-wing government majority, the Hungarian parliament has elected former family minister Katalin Novak as head of state, becoming the first woman in the country's history.

The confidante of powerful Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received 137 votes, the two-thirds majority needed to win the first round.

The opposition candidate, economics professor Peter Ronai, who teaches in England, received 51 votes.

Prior to her nomination, Novak was vice-president of Orbán's Fidesz party.

As President, the 44-year-old politician replaces Janos Ader, who also comes from the Fidesz party and who, after two terms in office, was not allowed to run again.

President has more protocol powers

The head of state in Hungary is elected for five years and has more protocol powers.

Among other things, it can either send back laws that it considers constitutionally questionable to Parliament or have them reviewed by the Constitutional Court.

Ader had hardly made use of this opportunity.

Novak is even less expected to do so as long as Orbán is in power.

As Minister for Family Affairs, she was the face of his policies, which aim to promote a traditional family image and defame sexual orientations that deviate from the heterosexual norm.

On behalf of Orbán, Novak repeatedly represented her country at the so-called World Congress of Families.

These are events organized by ultra-conservative forces, including Russian officials and oligarchs, as well as right-wing Republican figures.

The congresses took place partly in Moscow and once in Budapest.

In her candidacy speech in Parliament, Novak strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"This war started by Russia is incomprehensible, inexplicable," she said.

After the corona pandemic, “another devastating virus was unleashed in our neighborhood”.

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