Correspondent - Budapest
The President of Hungary, Pál Schmitt, elected in 2010 by the Hungarian parliament, offered his resignation today in a speech to parliament amid a national scandal which resulted into revocation of his doctorate for plagiarism.
Last week, Schmitt’s 1992 doctorate was annulled after a five-member committee, consisting of four professors and a lawyer, at Semmelweis University reviewed a report published in January by the Internet publication HVG.hu. The committee found that most of his 215-page thesis about the modern Olympic Games had been improperly copied from the work of two other authors without attribution. Schmitt had won two gold medals at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics on his country’s fencing teams.
Semmelweis University said that Mr. Schmitt’s paper summa cum laude at the Testnevelési Egyetem
(University of Physical Education) in 1995 did not meet the professional and ethical criteria required for a doctoral thesis, after a panel at the university found that the paper contained 16 pages of identical translation from the 1991 work of a German author, Klaus Heinemann. About a further 180 pages contained extracts identical to a 1987 work by Nikolay Gueorguiev, from Bulgaria, as well as tables and charts copied from the same source. (Source: NYTimes
Monday, in his speech to the parliament, the 69 years old president reaffirmed that he has not done anything wrong and continued to claim his innocence saying the problems with his doctoral dissertation should have been raised at that time when he submitted it. He further said that he will try to turn over University’s decision and expressed his will to write a new PhD if the problem persists. He plans to write a new thesis on sports and environmental sustainability.
At the end if the speech he said, “Based on Hungary’s constitution, which I have signed, the president expresses national unity; in this situation, when my personal issue divides my beloved nation rather than unites it, I feel it is my duty to end my service and resign my mandate as president.”
Meanwhile, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will also examine the plagiarism case, which led to the resignation of Paul Schmitt, and then decide whether to take any action against the former IOC member.
The IOC said: “We will be prompted with the case reports, will study them and consider whether we need to take any steps.”
President of the Assembly László Köver will take over as acting president once Schmitt’s resignation is finalized, after which a new president will be nominated and voted on.
The outgoing president isn’t the first European political figure to be embroiled in a scandal over academic integrity. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned as Germany’s defence minister and gave up his legislature seat in March 2011, after his doctorate in law was revoked for plagiarism. [Read about this on CBC.ca
Such checks should be thoroughly done by the local agencies on the authenticity of the qualification records of various leaders and politicians of their country. If a good qualification standard is maintained in the government, different problems like corruption and scams can be reduced drastically, though some exception exists. Sometimes not so educated people may deliver better results of developments than educated ones.
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