Hungary’s president Pál Schmitt has been embroiled in a plagiarism scandal. Accusations were brought in January that 180 out of his 215-page-long doctoral dissertation were lifted from another author, but close scrutiny following in the wake of the scandal has also revealed that Schmitt copied from several other sources as well.
With the justification that a doctoral title requires original scientific work, on March 28 Semmelweis University stripped the president of his doctoral title. Arguing that his position as the Hungarian president is untenable, even the pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet has called on him to resign.
The president refuses to let go of his position, however. Why? Not only because he questions his responsibility for the academic dishonesty of which he has been found guilty by his university, but because he is convinced that his dissertation is of practical worth and value for society.
What follows is the English-language version of the complete transcript of the Hungarian-language interview Pál Schmitt gave to the state television on March 29. The interview was conducted by Péter Obersovszky of the Hungarian state television MTV1.
The fresh months of the spring are upon us – traditionally these have been the best time for Hungarian far-right party Jobbik to recruit new members. According to Zoltán Balczó, vice-president of the party, Jobbik will focus its political energies on two political campaigns during the current political season. On the one hand, the party promises action on the government’s anti-EU rhetoric by stepping up its campaign for quitting the European Union. On the other hand, on March 8 Jobbik proclaimed a program of “civil activist strolls,” which is an evasive way of saying that the activities of their banned paramilitaries will continue. Continue reading
(Update: on March 29, the president was stripped of his doctoral title by the academic senate of Semmelweis University – see list of developments since publication of this post below the photo).
On March 27, an expert panel released the report of its investigation of the plagiarism charges launched against Hungarian president Pál Schmitt. The committee had no difficulties ascertaining that the dissertation extensively copied three different sources. Nevertheless, they concluded that the president’s dissertation meets formal requirements. Whether he must be stripped of his academic title is now up to the Hungarian Ministry of National Resources. The mind-boggling decision is further evidence that in Hungary facts are relative to one’s party affiliation: according to a survey, 64% of the opposition’s voters are convinced that Schmitt is guilty of academic dishonesty, but only 16% of the government’s followers would agree with that statement.
On March 15, many Hungarians found Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán’s speech overly combative – the Hungarian government’s international allies were without a doubt outraged. “We will not be a colony” was the official title of the speech, reflecting Mr. Orbán’s keen understanding that the sentiment behind the claim is bound to shore up popular support behind the Hungarian government. “We will not be a colony” is thus becoming the rallying cry of Orbán’s slowly evolving authoritarian regime, in spite of the fact that, to be perfectly honest, the sentence makes very little sense – as a political message, it is anachronistic to the point of being absurd. The origins of the phrase are to be sought, however, somewhere elsewhere: in the pseudo-economic theories of the Hungarian radical right. Continue reading
Contrary to expectations, the New Hungarian Guard – a splinter-group of the paramilitary arm organized by Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party – did not hold a huge demonstration of force on March 17 on Budapest’s Heroes Square. Approximately a hundred new members were initiated at the event; according to a press release by the Hungarian police, “due to the involvement of the police, lining up in formation and oath-taking did not take place.” A small group of anti-fascist demonstrators were also present to protest. Continue reading
UPDATE 2: For an excellent report of the day complete and many, many photos, see Adrei Stavila’s blog at this link.
UPDATE to the story: Since publishing this story, a group of French intellectuals have placed a statement in Liberation, urging those who can to join the anti-government rally ( http://www.liberation.fr/c/01012395290-c ). For locations and gathering times for each protest, scroll down to end of post.
March 15 is a national holiday in Hungary: it’s the day of remembrance for the 1848 Spring of Nations which, in the case of Hungary, led to a prolonged and tragic war of independence. 164 years after this upsurge of nationalistic sentiment all across Europe, supporters and critics of the Hungarian government are alike in their desire to protest. On March 15, 2012, there will be a major anti-government demonstration as well as an enormous pro-government rally: drawing on Hungary’s revolutionary past, each camp is going to mobilize tens of thousands of protesters for and against the Hungarian government’s current “war of independence.” But there is a major difference in the availability of financial resources to these two groups, and, as a result, some really surprising travel plans are in the making.
“Hungary is a member of the Council of Europe, a body that has been setting standards for the protection of fundamental rights in Europe for over half a century since adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights. Their recommendations aim to uphold and promote fundamental rights throughout Europe. Full compliance with fundamental rights’ norms of the Council of Europe should be self-evident for all EU Member States – it should not even require pressure from the European Commission or the European Parliament,” writes Neelie Kroes, Commissioner of the European Union in a letter rebuking charges by prominent representatives of the Hungarian government that her critical stance on Hungary amounts to a violation of Hungary’s national sovereignty. Continue reading
The freedom to peacefully assemble remains a constitutional right in Hungary. The protection from being harassed when engaged in such activity: not so much, at least not in the current government’s practice.
The National Tax and Customs Administration of Hungary has started an investigation into the finances of two lead organizers of Hungary’s biggest opposition group. Continue reading
Last week, uniformed police officers surrounded the high school of a small Hungarian town. Their targets: four Roma students, all between the ages of 14 and 16, who were to be arrested and transported in handcuffs for questioning at the neighboring city’s police station. But according to residents of the town, the conflict between the local authorities and the Roma community involves more than just a school-yard spat. Namely, it has to do with religion, discrimination, and most especially with the responses of the town’s residents to the national census.
The unique style of political debate in Hungary was already given ample space on this blog in last week’s post about pro-government journalist Zsolt Bayer’s television show. Continuing what might end up an entire series, this post introduces another talk show, which, just like Bayer’s show, is also a regularly scheduled program on Echo Television. Continue reading
The following are excerpts from a broadcast seen on a government-friendly television station in Hungary on February 10, 2012. “Korrektúra” (Editing Proof) provides political commentary during its regularly scheduled 30-minute slot on Echo TV. Last week, the show’s three panelists discussed the hearing held by the European Parliament on the state of civil rights and democratic values in Hungary. Continue reading
March 1: update to the story (last section)
Upon Malév’s announcement of its bankruptcy on February 3, it was hard not to feel like being caught in an emergency drill. The future holds other, much more challenging defaults for the Hungarian people; air travel is too luxurious and its impact is too limited for the Malév failure to count for anything more than a practice round. Bets are either on BKV, the municipal transportation system in Budapest, or on MÁV, the Hungarian State Railway, but various municipal councils may also be the next to follow suit. These do not have business rivals to step into the void they leave behind, the next Hungarian bankruptcy story is therefore more likely to hold real dramatic potential. Which is not to say that the leaders of the country did not exploit the loss of the national airline for their political pursuing their goals, no matter how easy or difficult these losses would or could have been to avoid.
The artists of Budapest’s New Theater bid farewell to their audience in proper style: their last collaboration was a stage adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain. Given the change of directors, the play will only be seen four times during the month of February. More important, however, is how life inside and outside the theater met through this choice: in the play, Hans Castorp’s suspension in philosophical contemplation comes to an abrupt interruption by political violence, essentially the same kind of violence that has shattered the company’s creative life.
As of February 1, Budapest’s New Theater is under the directorship of the Hungarian far-right. And while the message of the theater’s artists may have been too subtle, the anti-fascist protesters gathered outside the theater on the same day spoke out in much clearer terms against the political gains of far-right extremism. As if any further proof were required that fascism is more than just a fictional element in Hungarian public discourse, neo-nazi paramilitary groups disturbed the event by their counter-protest.