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President misses opportunity to save his dignity

March 30th, 2012

The two leading dailies contend that President Pál Schmitt should have resigned after a fact-finding committee identified academic dishonesty in his doctoral thesis. A left-wing analyst, on the other hand, hopes that Schmitt will stay in office to remind Hungarians of the moral bankruptcy of the Orbán government.

After the delivery of the report of the fact-finding committee investigating whether President Pál Schmitt was guilty of plagiarism (see BudaPost March 29), József Pálinkás, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, claimed that both the University and Pál Schmitt violated academic standards. Ákos Fluck, a lawyer who was a member of the investigatory committee, published his opinion, in which he recommended that the committee propose the revocation of President Schmitt’s doctoral title. On Wednesday, the doctoral committee of Semmelweis University followed this proposal, and the University Senate withdrew the degree the same evening.

The President missed a golden opportunity when he decided not to step down after the release of the report of the fact-finding committee, and claimed instead that the committee had cleared him of the plagiarism allegations, Magyar Nemzet writes in an op-ed piece. The paper also finds it highly disturbing that in their first statements after the release of the report, the governing parties chose to back the President.

According to the right-wing daily, those on the left who believe that the report will have no consequences are wrong. So are those on the right who claim that it acquits President Schmitt of the charges, for the report clearly states that Pál Schmitt violated basic principles of academic honesty.

Taking all this into account, President Schmitt, a former sports icon and successful diplomat, should have stepped down, in order to save the authority of Hungarian higher education and what has remained of his own dignity. Every day he spends in office will undermine public morals, Magyar Nemzet fears.

Népszabadság in a front page editorial suggests that President Schmitt was generously offered a possibility by the committee to save face, for the report stopped short of clearly charging him with outright plagiarism. One would have expected a former sportsman to respect fair play and admit his mistakes, the left-wing daily argues. By doing so, he would have also strengthened the belief in the rule of law, instead of sending the message that there are double standards, and some are above the rules.

Instead of demanding his resignation, we should hope that the President will remain in office, Zoltán Ripp remarks in Galamus. According to the left-wing political scientist, Fidesz would be the only beneficiary of Schmitt’s resignation. If he stays in office, his presence will remind the public of the total moral bankruptcy and absurdity of the Orbán regime, Ripp contends.

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