The 44-year-old, who also became Hungary's youngest-ever head of state, portrayed her election as a victory for women.

Katalin Novak was decorated with the Legion of Honor in 2019 for her contribution to improving relations between Paris and Budapest.
Katalin Novak was decorated with the Legion of Honor in 2019 for her contribution to improving relations between Paris and Budapest. (AP)

The Hungarian parliament has elected Katalin Novak, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as the EU member's first ever woman president.

Novak, who most recently served as a minister for family policy, portrayed her election on Thursday as a victory for women. The 44-year-old is Hungary's youngest ever head of state.

She was elected to the mostly ceremonial role by 137 votes to 51 in the parliament dominated by Orban's right-wing Fidesz party ahead of opposition challenger Peter Rona, an economist.

"We women rear children, care for the ill, cook, do the work of two people if needs be, earn money, teach, win Nobel prizes, clean windows," Novak said in a speech before the vote.

"We know the power of words but can keep quiet and listen if we have to, and defend our families with a courage beyond that of men's if danger threatens."

"It is thanks to being a woman and not despite it that I want to be a good president of Hungary," she added.

Earlier she posted a photo of her, her husband and her three children on social media, saying it "means a lot to me that my family is here with me".

READ MORE: Hungary's Orban faces united opposition in April 3 polls

Political career

From the southern city of Szeged, Novak —  a former vice president of the ruling Fidesz — will succeed party co-founder Janos Ader, who has held the job since 2012. 

She will take office after Ader's term expires on May 10.

After serving as a Foreign Ministry official for years, Novak became an MP in 2018 and was soon promoted by Orban to minister in charge of families, one of only few women in senior positions in his government.

Novak, a multi-lingual economics and law graduate, has been the face of government policies including generous tax breaks and handouts designed to encourage young families to have more children.

Thursday's vote comes weeks ahead of a crunch parliamentary election on April 3, where Orban faces a stiff battle to win a fourth straight term in power since 2010.

Peter Marki-Zay, who leads a six-party opposition hoping to unseat Orban next month, accused Novak of being "unfit" for the presidential position job due to her partisan background.

READ MORE: Are Hungarians a Turkic nation?

Source: AFP