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Budapest (AFP) – The Hungarian parliament on Thursday elected Katalin Novak, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as the first female president of the EU.
Novak, who recently served as family policy minister, described his election as a victory for women.
She was elected to the mainly ceremonial role by 137 votes to 51 in parliament dominated by Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party ahead of opposition challenger Peter Rona, an economist.
“We women raise children, take care of the sick, cook, do two people’s jobs if need be, earn money, teach, win Nobel Prizes, clean windows,” Novak said in a statement. speech before the vote.
“We know the power of words, but we can shut up and listen if need be, and stand up for our families with courage beyond that of men if danger threatens,” the youngest head of state said. 44-year-old Hungarian.
“It is thanks to being a woman and not in spite of it that I want to be a good president of Hungary,” she said.
Earlier, she posted a photo of herself, her husband and three children on social media, saying that “it means a lot to me that my family is here with me”.
Novak has been the face of government policies, including generous tax breaks and aid intended to encourage young families to have more children.
Thursday’s vote comes weeks before a crucial parliamentary election on April 3, where Orban will face an uphill battle to win a fourth consecutive term in power since 2010.
Peter Marki-Zay, who leads a six-party opposition hoping to topple Orban next month, has accused Novak of being “unfit” for the presidential post because of his partisan background.
Critics of the socially conservative Novak have also lambasted her advocacy of anti-LGBTQ policies ahead of a gender change referendum also to be held on April 3.
A law banning the “display or promotion” of homosexuality or gender reassignment to minors came into force last year, prompting public outcry and threats of sanctions from Brussels.
The government, including Novak, argued the law was necessary to protect children, but critics say the law discriminates against the LGBTQ community and confuses pedophilia with homosexuality.
Novak, a former vice-president of the ruling Fidesz, will succeed party co-founder Janos Ader, who has been in office since 2012. She will take up the post after Ader’s term expires on May 10.
“No need to compete”
Originally from the southern town of Szeged, this multilingual graduate in economics and law lived seven years in Germany where her husband worked.
After serving as a civil servant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for years, she became an MP in 2018 and was quickly promoted by Orban to the post of minister in charge of the family, one of the few women to hold leadership positions in his government.
As the face of pro-family politics, Novak has sparked controversy by saying in a promotional video that women don’t need to “constantly compete” with men.
“Women shouldn’t have to work in the same job and earn at least as much as men, and they shouldn’t have to choose between having kids and their careers,” she said.
Last fall, Novak, decorated with the Legion of Honor in 2019 for her contribution to improving relations between Paris and Budapest, coordinated the Hungarian visits of presidential candidates Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen.
Novak also facilitated meetings between Orban and other members of the European right like the Italian Matteo Salvini and the Spaniard Santiago Abascal.
Polls indicate that Novak is more “divisive” than incumbent President Ader.
At a Fidesz party congress last November, Novak wore “OV 2022” earrings referencing Orban’s election campaign.
© 2022 AFP