Katalin Novák, former Fidesz Vice President and Family Minister, was elected as Hungary’s next president by a two-thirds majority. In just over a decade, Novák has had a stellar career: she started at the Foreign Ministry, rose to become Family Minister, and became Vice President of the ruling Fidesz party. In recent years, her role has grown spectacularly. Last year and this year, she was named the most influential woman in Hungarian public life. Katalin Novák is the first female, and at 44 years old, even the youngest president of Hungary since the regime change. She has three children, speaks four foreign languages, runs marathons, and was a committed Fidesz party member.
This article was originally published on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute.
Katalin Novák began her political career as recently as 2001 (during the first Orbán government) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she specialized in European affairs. In 2010, she became a ministerial counselor, and two years later she was appointed head of cabinet of the Ministry of Human Resources (EMMI). In 2014, she was appointed Secretary of State for Family and Youth Affairs of EMMI, and finally became Minister of Family in October 2020. Between 2017 and 2021, she was also one of the vice presidents of Fidesz. This is just a brief summary of her career- there is much more. And not only because she will be the first female president of Hungary.
Who exactly is Katalin Novák?
Katalin Novák was born in Szeged in 1977, studied at the National University of Public Service (NKE) in Budapest, the University of Szeged, and in Paris on a scholarship. According to her official biography, Novák started her career in government in 2001 as an advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but left in 2003. After that, the economist spent six years raising her children at home (partly in Germany) before becoming an advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2010, and Head of Cabinet of the Minister of Human Resources in 2012.
“Fresh, intelligent, pretty,” was the first impression Minister Zoltán Balog had when he met Katalin Novák in person for the first time during the casting for a new head of cabinet. It is unknown who exactly recommended Katalin Novák to him when he was looking for a head of cabinet in 2012, after his appointment as the top minister of human resources, except that “a friend,” of former Foreign Minister János Martonyi had heard of her.
“She had a fresh spirit and was a good worker. […] I even noticed that she spoke three languages so well: French, English, and German, which is a very special quality in diplomatic circles,” was János Martonyi’s impression of her. It is said that the ministers were also impressed by the fact that “Katalin comes from a family of lawyers and doctors; this is not a disadvantage,” the Foreign Minister is said to have mentioned, wrote Euronews in a detailed article about Novák.
After the 2014 elections, Novák rose to the position of State Secretary for Family and Youth in the same ministry (EMMI). Between 2017 and 2021, she was even one of the deputy party leaders of Fidesz, and since 2018 she has also been a member of parliament. Since 2020, she held the post of Minister of Family and Youth, from which she resigned when she ran for president.
FactFamily policy has gained importance in the government’s policy, especially after 2015, when the cabinet tried to solve population problems through “Hungarian children” rather than “migration.” The Prime Minister first entrusted Katalin Novák with the management of the demographic change measures. And even a new post was created for the task, namely the post of Minister of Family Affairs.
Her website states that Novák was involved in the development of the idea and model of an independent Hungarian family policy, and later headed this area as a state secretary and minister in the government. She is the initiator of several implemented measures to support families. During her term, the so-called CSOK (housing allowance for families) the childcare allowance, the housing renovation allowance, and the income tax exemption for mothers of four were introduced. She initiated the Year of Families 2018 in Hungary.
Katalin Novák is married and the mother of three children. In her free time, she enjoys reading and running long distances, including marathons. Her credo is: everyone is a long-distance runner, even if most never discover this talent in themselves.
“As a mother of three, I know how arduous it can be to manage the seemingly mundane but often very difficult tasks of raising one, two, or more children and managing the household on a daily basis, all while working. Therefore, my priority as Minister of Family Affairs is to give mothers the choice and freedom to decide for themselves when they want to return to work, to create a work-life balance, to provide real help for the life situations of young Hungarians and families,” she wrote on her official website, still in her capacity as Minister.
She is also one of the politicians who posts the most on social media sites. She also posts a lot about her private life. In her posts, she always points out that she is also a housewife. She bakes, knits, cooks, and cleans the windows.
One of the most influential women in Hungary
In 2020, Katalin Novák topped the list of the most influential Hungarian women in public life. Regardless of her position, she is considered the minister closest to the head of government, Forbes writes in its citation. At the same time, her divisive social media presence and conservative messages are increasingly influencing public debate. Forbes lists Hungary’s most influential women in four main categories: Business, Media, Public Life, and Culture. She tops the list again this year.
FactHer involvement in public life, charity work
Ambassador of the Reformed Charity Service
President of the Political Network for Values
Vice president of the Women’s Committee of the International Democratic Union
(International Union of Democratic Women)
Founder and President of the Women for Hungary Club and the Women for the Hungarian Nation Movement
Founding member and member of the advisory board of the German-Hungarian Youth Association
She is a Knight of the French Legion of Honor and a recipient of the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. In addition to her native language of Hungarian, she is fluent in English, French, and German, and is also proficient in Spanish.
When Novák was named as a candidate for president by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, her reaction was short and sweet:
I will remain who I am.”
She further wrote on her Facebook page:
I am ready to represent Hungary and serve the entire Hungarian nation with faith, soul, and heart.”
Featured image via Katalin Novák’s Facebook page