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Deputy PM plagiarism scandal

December 10th, 2012

An independent conservative blogger dismisses Deputy PM Zsolt Semjén’s claim that he did not violate any written rules when copying large parts of his 1992 doctoral dissertation from other sources without attribution.

Heti Világgazdaság revealed that Deputy PM Zsolt Semjén, Chairman of the Fidesz-ally Christian Democratic Party (KDNP) in his PhD dissertation submitted to Péter Pázmány Academy of Theology in 1991, copied several pages from different sources without attribution and later, when graduating in sociology at ELTE University, he submitted an updated version of his doctoral dissertation as his final thesis. Even one of the professors deemed that dissertation insufficient, he updated it again, but with slightly rewritten excerpts from a manuscript later to be published by Attila Károly Molnár, his supervisor. Mr Semjén rejected the accusations, and said that they were part of a political campaign. The fact-finding committee of Budapest ELTE University declared that Mr Semjén violated basic principles of scientific research. The Faculty, however, did not initiate the withdrawal of Semjén’s diploma, since there were no specific rules about plagiarism in 1992, and the current by-laws of the institution do not allow for degrees to be annulled. Mr Semjén in a press release stated that he considers the case closed, and dismissed the allegations that he had violated any ethical norms. The Vice-PM, who is also responsible for diaspora politics, added that he would be continue his mandate and work for the 150,000 non-resident ethnic Hungarians who have been granted Hungarian citizenship since 2010.The issue is made particularly sensitive by the fact that early this year President Pál Schmitt had to resign in the wake of a plagiarism scandal around his doctoral thesis. (See BudaPost, January through May 2012.)

In Mandiner, Ákos Balogh finds Deputy PM Semjén’s argument unconvincing. He finds it particularly tasteless that Mr Semjén tries to defend the fraud by claiming that he is attacked for his Christian beliefs and that he connects his case to transborder Hungarians, who have nothing to do with the issue. The conservative blogger admits that several politicians on the left may have violated basic academic principles (see BudaPost May 2) with the active help of their univerities. This, however, is no excuse for Deputy PM Semjén, he adds. After all, a politician who follows Christian principles should be aware that in politics there are also ethical and not merely legal principles to live up to, Balogh concludes.

Magyar Nemzet quotes Gábor Jobbágyi, a law professor at Péter Pázmány University who believes Mr Semjén could successfully sue the committee, for he should have been consulted in the first place and given a copy of the decision taken as a result of the inquiry. In addition, the professor remarks that the supervisor was a member of the jury and gave the maximum vote to Mr Semjén’s thesis, without objecting to the passages supposedly copied from his manuscript.

Meanwhile, the supervisor, Attila Károly Molnár claims that he was not shown the final, updated version of Mr Semjén’s thesis.

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