Hungary’s parliament has elected Katalin Novak, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, as the EU member’s first female president.
Novak, who most recently served as minister for family policy, described her election Thursday as a victory for women.
She was elected to the mostly 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, care for the sick, cook, are in two places at once if need be, earn money, teach, win Nobel prizes, clean windows,” Novak said in a speech before the vote.
“We know the power of words, but we can keep quiet and listen if we have to, and defend our families with courage beyond men’s if danger threatens,” Hungary’s youngest head of state, 44, said.
“It is because I am a woman, 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 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 to encourage young families to have more children.
Thursday’s vote comes weeks before parliamentary elections on April 3, where Orban faces a fierce battle to win a fourth consecutive term in power since 2010.
Peter Marki-Zay, who is leading a six-party opposition hoping to unseat Orban next month, has accused Novak of being “unfit” for the presidential post because of his partisan background.
Novak will succeed Janos Ader, co-founder of Orban’s right-wing ruling party Fidesz, who has held the post since 2012. She will take office after Ader’s term expires on May 10.