Home Breaking News Hungary’s President Pal Schmitt resigned amid plagiarism scandal

Hungary’s President Pal Schmitt resigned amid plagiarism scandal


Hungarian President Pal Schmitt has announced his resignation, after being stripped of his doctorate over plagiarism.

Pal Schmitt, 69, elected in 2010, said “my personal issue divides my beloved nation rather than unites it”.

“It is my duty to end my service and resign my mandate as president,” he told parliament.

Last week, Budapest’s Semmelweis University revoked Pal Schmitt’s 1992 award after finding that much of his thesis had been copied.

Hungarian President Pal Schmitt has announced his resignation, after being stripped of his doctorate over plagiarism

Hungarian President Pal Schmitt has announced his resignation, after being stripped of his doctorate over plagiarism

 

Pal Schmitt won gold medals for fencing at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games.

He was elected to the largely ceremonial role of president for a five-year term, with strong backing from the conservative ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The university said whole passages of his thesis about the modern Olympic Games had been copied from the work of two other academics.


Pal Schmitt denied wrongdoing and resisted calls for him to go, but on Saturday protesters in Budapest stepped up the pressure for him to resign.

The scandal comes at a sensitive time for the Fidesz government, whose news laws on the judiciary, media and central bank have proven highly controversial.

The European Commission and Euro MPs accuse Viktor Orban of limiting media freedom and the independence of the judiciary and central bank. The row has delayed financial help that Hungary desperately needs to ease its debt crisis.

Pal Schmitt served as Hungary’s ambassador to Spain in 1993-1997, and to Switzerland in 1999-2002.

He was Hungary’s fourth democratically elected president since the collapse of communism in 1989.

Pal Schmitt told parliament he would appeal against the decision which revoked his doctorate. He argues that only a court has the power to take such a decision.

Fidesz support for Pal Schmitt wavered from the very start of the plagiarism allegations.

A single comment from Viktor Orban’s spokesman Peter Szijjarto, that the allegations were “ridiculous”, was not followed up by the party as a whole.

When a committee of the Budapest Semmelweis University issued its 1,157-page report last week, Fidesz simply declared the matter “closed”, while the Christian Democrats (KDNP), their junior partner in government, issued a much more strident attack on the president’s critics, our correspondent says.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban would only say last Friday that the president should make up his own mind.

Normally pro-government newspapers have bristled with articles calling for Mr Schmitt’s resignation, though the same authors also pointed to the failure of former leftist leaders – notably ex-Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany – to resign, after admitting to lying in 2006.

On Sunday, the university rector Tivadar Tulassy stepped down, on the grounds that he had not received support from the relevant ministry. The university’s report was returned unopened by the minister.