By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent reporting from Budapest, Hungary
The 44-year-old Novák, who as president will be commander-in-chief, told Parliament that the war started by Russia in Ukraine was “indefensible and inexplicable.”
More than 200,000 often desperate people have already sought refuge in Hungary as the war rages on across the border.
Novák, a former Minister of Family Affairs, also said that she regarded the family as “the cradle of Hungarian society” and pledged to defend the country’s free will and sovereignty.
Her comments apparently impressed conservative legislators as the married-mother-of-three received 137 votes of 188 valid ballots. Economist Péter Róna, the opposition’s candidate, got 51 votes.
Novák will take office on May 10 as the sixth Hungarian president since the fall of communism in 1989. She replaces incumbent János Áder for a maximum of two five-year terms.Novák lived and worked in the United States, France, and Germany and speaks English, French, German and Spanish.
She was nominated by longtime right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who prepares for a tough parliamentary election on April 3 against a united opposition.
The opposition has questioned his presidential choice and policies amid an ongoing war in Ukraine.
Orbán faces criticism over his massive deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin while not providing military aid to Hungary’s war-torn neighbor.
When speaking to Parliament, the opposition’s presidential candidate Róna noted that “since Hungary’s first king, Saint Stephen, Hungarians wanted to belong to the West.”
He said European Union membership guaranteed Hungary’s financial stability and NATO military alliance membership represented security. “Why should all this be discarded for the friendship with a Russian dictator?” he wondered.
Róna, 79, recalled that during World War Two, Hungary’s leadership remained an ally of Nazi Germany even after “everyone else had deserted them.”
“We’re anxious because we know we have something to do with what’s going on in the neighboring country,” he said, referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Can we really not tell the difference between good and evil?” Róna asked, adding that he believed this was not “the Hungarian way.”
Hungary’s government views the opposition as “irresponsible” for suggesting to send weapons and possible troops to help Ukraine fight Russia.
Yet, Hungarians are sensitive about the war in neighboring Ukraine as they recall Hungary’s 1956 Revolution against Soviet domination, which was crushed by Russian troops.
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