Plagiarism scandal costs Hungary’s President Schmitt’s
Former olympic champion Schmitt (R) resigns because of a plagiarism scandal. AP photoHungary’s President Pal Schmitt resigned yesterday, after he was stripped last week of his 1992 doctorate title following claims he plagiarized most of his 200-page thesis.
“Under the constitution, the president must represent the unity of the Hungarian nation. I have unfortunately become a symbol of division, I feel it is my duty to leave my position,” he told parliament. Schmitt, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, leaves the ceremonial post less than two years after he took over the presidency in June 2010.
Word for-word passages
The 69-year-old ex-Olympic fencing champion and former head of the National Olympic Committee, was elected in June 2010 with strong backing from Orban’s ruling Fidesz party. Rumors he might resign first arose on March 30, a day after Budapest’s Semmelweis University stripped him of his PhD title, but Schmitt clung on, insisting that he could “see no link” between the plagiarism affair and his job. The university found last week that the president copied “word-for-word” large passages of another writer’s work in his thesis on the history of the Olympic Games.
Soon after Schmitt spoke, Hungary’s governing Fidesz Party said it plans to have Parliament vote later yesterday to accept the resignation and to have the legislators choose his successor as soon as possible.
Orban kept mostly out of the debate, telling public radio on March 30 that the president alone must make the decision on whether he should resign, while opposition parties had called on him to step down. On March 31 hundreds of people marched from the city center to the presidential palace in the castle district, calling for him to go.
Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily news staff