Katalin Novák took her presidential oath exactly a year ago today, on 14 May 2022. She became the first woman in Hungarian history to hold the prestigious office. She also rose to the top at a relatively young age, at only 44 years old.
To commemorate the historic anniversary, the Sándor Palace, the presidential residence and workspace in the capital city of Budapest, has been opened to public visitors. On 13–14 May, this weekend, anyone interested can visit the 19th-century neoclassicist palace free of charge.
Novák officially assumed office from her predecessor János Áder on 10 May 2022, while her inauguration ceremony took place four days later, the anniversary of which is today. Thus she has already spent over a year serving as President of the Republic.
To note this occasion, the Hungarian news site Index asked two political analysts to evaluate President Novák’s first year in office.
Her time is very much defined by the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war,
Gergely Rajnai, an analyst for the Centre for Fair Political Analysis (Méltányosság Politikaelemző Központ) pointed out. He went on to say that this resulted in her going on more diplomatic missions than usual, elevating the presidential role to a more pragmatic level, as opposed to its more symbolic function in the past. Rajnai added that she seems to want to pursue a foreign policy course more in line with Western expectations and she rarely gets into confrontations with other EU and NATO member states.
Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, head of Nézőpont Institute, told Index that Hungary’s first female president ‘has grown into her role, which includes a constant media presence, and gestures that aim to reach out to those as well who do not constitute ruling party’s right-wing voter base’.
Katalin Novák at the Coronation of King Charles III, Meeting With the Pope
President Novák certainly had an eventful couple of weeks leading up to her anniversary.
Pope Francis made an apostolic journey to Hungary on 28–30 April, where he also met with Katalin Novák. She delivered a speech greeting His Holiness as well, in his native language of Spanish, in which she referred to him as ‘a man of peace’. Only a week later, on 6 May, President Novák attended the coronation ceremony for King Charles III at Westminster Abbey in London.