A month after former president Pál Schmitt resigned amid revelations that the bulk of his doctoral thesis was the work of others, the former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány this week angrily rejected allegations that he had copied his university dissertation in the 1980s.
On Wednesday, his alma mater, the University of Pécs, told state news agency MTI that it was setting up a fact-finding committee, and had filed a criminal complaint over the disappearance of Gyurcsány’s dissertation from its archives. “The investigation… will cover equally the disappearance of the former prime minister’s dissertation and the suspicions of plagiarism,” the university said.
The pro-government news channel HírTV had set the the snowball rolling last Friday when it reported that Gyurcsány’s work on wine making in the Lake Balaton region had the same title as a dissertation written four years earlier by a brother of his ex-wife. Furthermore, an academic report on Gyurcsány’s work (the dissertation itself having vanished) read “as though it referred to the first 35 pages of the work by Gyurcsány’s brother-in-law Szabolcs Rozs”, said reporters for the channel’s Célpont (Target) show.
The similarly pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet posted online on Friday academic record cards showing identical titles and differing dates – 1980 and 1984 – that appear to support the suspicions. The trouble is, Gyurcsány says he cannot find his own copy of his dissertation either. Nevertheless, the reports were enough for a spokeswoman from the ruling Fidesz party to assert on Sunday that evidence had “come to light” proving he copied parts of his dissertation.
Former PM in plagiarism probe
In a defiant May Day speech in the City Park on Tuesday, the former prime minister said he intends to file a criminal complaint over the disappearance of his essay from the university’s archives, and would also sue anyone who claims he is guilty of plagiarism. An MP from Gyurcsány’s breakaway leftist party, the Democratic Coalition (DK), accused the government of seeking to creating a scandal to divert attention from a new package of austerity measures. On Thursday, the small opposition party said it welcomed the university’s decision to investigate.
In Schmitt’s wake
When former president Schmitt resigned after a university panel found that most of his doctoral thesis had been copied from the works of other academics, reporters quickly turned their attentions on right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Socialist arch rival Gyurcsány. Orbán promptly posted his dissertation on the internet. Gyurcsány said he could not find his, and in response to a press inquiry his alma mater in Pécs said it had lost its copy.
Not one to give up
Orbán and his Fidesz party have been trying to force Gyurcsány out of public life since 2006, when the then premier was heard in a leaked recording to acknowledge that the Socialists had lied “night and day” to secure re-election. Gyurcsány managed to hold onto power for another three years before an interim government took over to deal with the economic crisis. The resulting loss of prestige for the left-wing helped bring Orbán’s Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance to power in 2010 with an unassailable two-thirds parliamentary majority. Since then, Gyurcsány has been quizzed by investigators in what his sympathisers claim are trumped up charges relating to a government real estate deal.
‘Inquisition’ says embattled Gyurcsány
Former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány has complained of an “inquisition-like” atmosphere surrounding the suspicion that he may have plagiarised his university dissertation in the 1980s.
Speaking on the independent station ATV on Wednesday after his alma mater launched an investigation, Gyurcsány denied he had anything to do with the disappearance of his work from the University of Pécs archives.
He said it was “very strange” that the only dissertations to vanish from the university are his own and another from which right-wing media have accused him of copying.
An enemy could have stolen them in order to remove the evidence that could clear his name, Gyurcsány said.