April 2nd, 2012

Hungarian President Pál Schmitt resigns in speech before parliament

Hungarian President Pál Schmitt resigned today in a speech to parliament before the beginning of the chamber’s normal session on Monday.

Appointed in 2010 for a five year term, the 69 year-old former Olympic champion and diplomat had become embroiled in a controversy surrounding the legitimacy of the doctoral degree he was awarded in 1992, which last Thursday was withdrawn by Semmelweis University following evidence that most of the 215-page dissertation had been improperly copied without attribution from other scholars’ works.

Despite widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, Schmitt on Friday gave a television interview in which he said his conscience was clear and that he would remain in office. Schmitt reaffirmed his stance over the weekend in radio interviews.

The president’s speech

Media sources earlier today speculated that Schmitt had in all likelihood asked to address parliament so that he could announce his formal resignation.

The president began his speech by saying that as someone who was previously a sportsman and diplomat, he was unused to the public attacks that are commonplace in politics.

Schmitt reiterated the same points he made in his Friday interview, namely that the problems with his doctoral dissertation should have been raised at the time. Schmitt continued that he will try and have the Semmelweis University’s decision overturned and reaffirmed that he intends to write a new PhD, now adding that the topic would be on sports and environmental sustainability.

At the end, he said that the person of the president is meant to symbolize the unity of the country, but that owing to increasing attacks on his character, he feels that it is now his duty to leave his post, and that he would resign as president.

Questions had been raised over what the appropriate protocol is for removing a president if the does not resign the post himself. Schmitt’s decision to step down of his own volition means those questions can be set aside for the time being.

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. (For details on the process click here.)

Fidesz proposes five-party talks for tonight

Following Schmitt’s resignation, Fidesz caucus leader János Lázár said the ruling parties had proposed an evening meeting including all five parliamentary parties tonight to discuss the procedure for nominating a new president, and that members of parliament’s house committee had agreed that Schmitt’s decision to step down should be officially accepted today.

Lázár said that the talks would include discussion of a proposal by Jobbik that the presidency be subject to a direct popular election, and the Socialists’ notion of nominating former President László Sólyom, whom Schmitt succeeded in 2010.

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  • Yippeeee

    The right thing for the country!!!!!!!!

  • The Mad Professor of Freakanomics

    Good luck with the PhD.

  • Leto Muad’dib

    It was the right decision, thank you, Mr. President. Respect.

    • http://www.allhungary.hu Erik D’Amato

      After all the nonsense of this past weekend I reckon it’s hard to give him serious respect, but I suppose that was to be expected. Also, to be fair, Guttenberg (German defense minister) also took his time. Still – seedy.

      • The Mad Professor of Freakanomics

        Enable nickname registration in the WordPress control panel, please.

        Copy & Paste:

        “Registration is enabled under General Settings in the admin panel. ‘Users must be registered’ is enabled under Discussion Settings.”

      • Leto Muad’dib

        Yes, he should have resigned last Wednesday.

        “Guttenberg (German defense minister) also took his time”

        Indeed.

        • Cogito

          Yes, he should have resigned las Wednesday. Better late than never.

          Interestingly, Gyurcsany’s need to resign after admitting to cheating and lying to win an election, was not so obvious to the people now cheering, jeering, salivating and peeing in their panties from joy, during Schmitt’s resignation speech in the Parliament.

          • Paul

            @Cogito
            VO needs to resign after attacking the EU and after ordering his spokesperson to deny it happened.He either lied, or made his spokesperson lie.

          • Leto Muad’dib

            “VO needs to resign ”

            :D :D

            It seems you’ve had some really wet dreams.

          • Paul

            By the way……15th march speech of VO….which was so full of freedom fighting is a never mind by now, according to people like you?…..he is begging for approval of the EC/EU by now…trying to…so called adjust the laws…including other tricks which will not work either.
            What is the plan? Surrender to the EU/EC demands completely….or going his own way….(the silly we will not be a colony type of approach).

          • Cogito

            @ Leto M

            You are too generous about Paul’s dreams :)

          • Paul

            @Cogito

            Lots of smileys….lots of insults…no content.

            Nightmare of your family guy.

          • justasking

            @Paul,

            “Nightmare of your family guy”

            Humh…wonder if he thinks the same about you?

  • The Who

    great. Now who is next on the list? Truth must out.

    • The Mad Professor of Freakanomics

      The process will start at four.

  • Andy

    Is there preparing: “Bye,bye,bye Pál party?” I would like to join celebration. O.K. So, one is gone.. and Orban is next, right?

    • Leto Muad’dib

      When you’ll wake up then you’d have to wipe your hands because they are in the night pot.

  • oneill

    He could have said all those things on Wednesday and even Friday and left with a tad more respect and honour.

    Still, he has done the right thing for his country.

  • Curious George

    “…..he was unused to the public attacks that are commonplace in politics.”
    Doesn’t an ex-diplomat, Deputy President of Fidesz, speaker of Parliament & Vice President of the European Parliament have to deal with these things on a daily basis? Makes you wonder if he was just riding on the gravy train all these decades.

  • Sure

    I believe that Daffy Duck is available to replace Schmitt. He’s waiting for Viktor’s call now.

  • sheesh

    Looking ahead, Jobbik is damn right the next president should be elected by popular vote but knowing Viki’s pig-headedness I fear that’s wishful thinking for at least another two years.

    • Leto Muad’dib

      “the next president should be elected by popular vote”

      No way. That would mean a half-presidential republic.

    • Leto Muad’dib

      “I fear that’s wishful thinking for at least another two years.”

      :D

      Why on Earth do you think Fidesz-KDNP would change the constitution that way after the next elections?

  • Kong Fo Funk

    BUGGER!!!
    I loved the concept of a PM whos a complete (ignorant) fascista and the Pres a cheat!!
    “I am not a crook”

  • Leto Muad’dib

    “that he intends to write a new PhD”

    He never wrote a PhD. LMP and co. kept waving their PhD degrees, saying it took so many years of research and Schmitt’s case would bring shame on their degrees. Actually this dirty trick brought shame on them.

    Why?
    Schmitt submitted a “university doctoral thesis” in 1992, that is what was called “kisdoktori”. Incidentally he didn’t submit this to the prestigious Semmelweis Medical University but for “Testnevelési Egyetem” (Sports University), not particularly in high esteem, I think.
    As far as I remember, Testnevelési Főiskola (high school) was made into Testnevelési Egyetem (university) around 1991 and then Testnevelési Egyetem was merged into the medical university Semmelweis about ten years ago.

    “kisdoktori”, that is what Mr. Schmitt used to hold, was something slightly above MSc but *a lot less* than a PhD today.
    It was “nagydoktori” what corresponded to PhD at that time. (Well, actually “nagydoktori” was meant to be above PhD.)

    • Leto Muad’dib

      Oh, this wasn’t quite accurate. Universities awarded the “university doctor” title. This often meant little, or none at all, scientific achievement.

      MTA (the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) had two degrees: “kandidátus” (C.Sc., candidate of sciences) and “nagydoktori”, “tudományok doktora”, (D.Sc., doctor of sciences)

      Some “university doctor” titles were recognized as PhD, introduced after 1993 or so, some were not. The MTA awarded title “kandidátus” was alway automatically recognized as PhD, while “nagydoktori”, also awarded by MTA, has become “MTA doktora” now and it’s the doorstep for becoming a member of MTA. People rarely achieved it before the age of 40 and that’s how it is now as well.

  • Frankly Franklin

    Meh. Doctoral is a doctoral. Mockeries of them are mockeries of them. Finding fine details to distract yourself from his massive amount of “fail” and “suck” does not make hem have less “fail” to suck on.

    “It was very dirty trick for them to hold up their superior papers and call out this man for his mistake. Well, 20 years ago things were very clear about Doctoral degrees and now I will blither about that instead as justification for claiming the LMP/MSZP/NOT FIDESZ people are the people who hurt Hungary.”

    Enjoy the fail. Savor it. You are the fail’s friend.

    • Leto Muad’dib

      “Doctoral is a doctoral.”

      Have another go at my post above. It’s not difficult to understand if you’re willing to.

      • Francois

        I don’t see how someone like Schmitt will be able to write a doctoral dissertation. The topic he chose is quite interesting, but it’s gonna be a very hard job, it will take years of research and writing… and appart from the question of skills and knowledge, I just don’t see him make these sacrifices.

        • Leto Muad’dib

          “it’s gonna be a very hard job”

          No question about that at all. And he’s 70.

          “I just don’t see him make these sacrifices”

          I’ve got considerable doubts, too. His pledge is not to be dismissed so easily though. He’s made a remarkable career as a sportsman and as a sport diplomat. I’ll wait and see.

          • Curious George

            @Leto – For someone who demonstrated his value system & endless excuses over the past few days, I have no doubts that he will not do a PhD. It would reopen his 1st degree to added scrutiny, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want that.

        • The Mad Professor of Freakanomics

          The fact is, it doesn’t really matter at this stage. If he goes to the U.S. with his wife, and spends time with his children and grandchildren there, thats O.K. too.

          He has no financial worries and is set up for life. In the meantime, there is a country that needs to be mended financially and politically.

          I have always agreed with Kövér László on this point, he was not the best choice in the first place.

  • Tricky

    It was the right thing to do – just 2 months too late.

    • Leto Muad’dib

      No, it was 5 days late.

      • Pete H.

        He knew two month ago he had plagiarized. Either that or he is a complete dolt. So, yes he was two months too late.

      • Tricky

        If he had resigned 5 days ago, he would have done the right thing for Hungary. If he had resigned 2 months ago, he would have saved him a lot of trouble.
        Compare it to an athlete who were caught doping. In the case of Contador, I understand that he wants to fight for his rights – 0000, 000, 000, 05 grams clenbuterol could indeed come from eating contaminated meat.
        But if you are like Virenque, caught taking 22 doses of Epo in the last 14 days, I don’t see why you would wait for the B-sample and cry out loud in public that you are innocent.
        Coppying over 95% of your work leaves little doubt, and Schmitt should have been aware of that in January.

        • Leto Muad’dib

          I cannot dispute your first two sentences.

  • Lil

    Unreal that he didnt jump immediately rather than drag down the reputation of the post & country. What a shocking example he set for today’s young students. Farcical.
    However, i remember a conversation with an up-and-coming Hu politician who said to me – straight-faced – “Political life is complicated and it’s a personal sacrifice, so of course we cant be expected to follow the rules and restrictions expected of a citizen.”
    Couldnt believe my ears – a politician should be above reproach, suspicion and lead by example.

    • Paul

      “Couldn’t believe my ears – a politician should be above reproach, suspicion and lead by example.”…and not be lying….which brings us to VO spokesman who denied VO compared Brussels with Moscow in his 15th march speech. Integrity is crucial in a democracy. There is not a lot around in this government though.

  • Igazi Magyar

    “…..he was unused to the public attacks that are commonplace in politics.”

    He was attacked for plagarism. So it sounds like he thinks it’s okay to lie and cheat in sports.

    • FiftyCent

      Hungary was the N°1 doping nation at the Athens Games and now trails only Bulgaria in doping in the history of the modern Olympics.
      Hungarian athletes have fooled testers for decades by secreting a small plastic bag containing noncontaminated urine in the anus.
      This was brought to WADA’s attention when the samples of Adrian Annus showed evidence of belonging to 2 different athletes. Of course he denied…
      Pal Schmitt is the Annus of politics… a lifelong cheater.

      • Leto Muad’dib

        “trails only Bulgaria in doping in the history of the modern Olympics”

        I’m sure you can back up your claim somehow, can’t you?

        • Frankly Franklin

          I would love to see this proven. Until then I take it with a grain of salt and a critical eye that is blinking rapidly. Really? Both the most doped at Athens and second in the world? I doubt it.

          If it is true then shame on China and Russian Federation for falling behind so fast. Also, shame on Hungary for letting their doping advantage slip away since Athens. GEEZ! Is anything around here worth being proud of?

          • FiftyCent

            @Leto: It was the situation at the Athene Games, 2004
            listas.cev.org.br/cevdopagem/2004-September/000958.html

            It’s interesting to see that 8 years ago Schmitt and Gyurcsany were already blaming each other:

            The Minister of Sports and Youth, Ferenc
            Gyurcsany, who happens to be the acting prime minister of
            the governing socialist-liberal coalition, denied
            Hungarian Olympic Committee chairman Pal Schmitt’s claim
            that his ministry was responsible for carrying out doping
            tests on athletes on home soil. Schmitt happens to be a
            deputy chairman of Fidesz, the biggest opposition party.

            Gyurcsany’s own response to the affair changed from day to
            day. He initially suggested that the state should cut off
            funding from entire sports whose athletes were caught
            doping, then modified this to include only the guilty
            athletes’ clubs.

          • FiftyCent

            listas.cev.org.br/cevdopagem/2004-September/000958.html

        • Leto Muad’dib

          Oh, so that’s how you back up such a claim. A certain Judit Szakacs wrote this on a website. It looks like a Brazilian mailing list, doesn’t it?

          • FiftyCent

            Leto, I wrote a whole post but it does not appear so I just googled for a link referring to the original incidents.

          • Leto Muad’dib

            Dig up something which tries to prove your claim with (verifiable) numbers.

      • spectator

        “Pal Schmitt is the Annus of politics… a lifelong cheater.”

        Hmmm.
        As I see, it was much more appropriate omitting one “n” of the double above.
        And not even a particularly faithful kind at that, always turned to the most profitable direction, in his whole carrier.
        Seems, now he turned once too many to his own good.

        At least, Ms.Schmitt can skip to wear those dreadful costumes, finally can dress as a normal person, finally!

  • BB

    No-one seems to have mentioned here that he will continue to receive his presidential salary for the rest of his life. So Hungarians are still paying for him but now also another President too. Not sure who’s really the winner here.

    • Feher Gyorgy

      Schmitt should just remember the standing ovation and the royal salary he’ll get for the rest of his life. These are the tokens of appreciations for Schmitt who served our country so well. Never for get that he has signed more laws than any other President in the world.
      When I saw him in the Déryné on Sunday, I did not see a bitter or broken man, but someone who will work tirelessly to astonish the world with his groundbreaking thesis about eco sports.
      I only have one thing to say to the cry babies at HVG and Index: karma will get you back eventually.
      My grandmother had a saying: “Never get into a wrestling match with a pig. You’re both gonna get muddy, and chances are, the pig likes it”.
      You picked a fight with the wrong guy. Orban is the meanest pig you’ll ever meet and he doesn’t need karma to do what’s right, he has the media law and an army of judges.
      I know you’ll not believe me on this one but Orban has called his friend Bruce Willis to come to Budapest and set things straight. Yippe-ki-yay, just wait & see, Motherf@(#€&s

  • Sure

    Now, Viktor, the matter is \closed\.

    • FiftyCent

      I didn’t yet hear the fat lady sing.

      • Sure

        Patience.

  • Gems From Hungary

    The milestones which led to the resignation are also telling http://gemsfromhungary.blogspot.de/2012/04/presidents-phd.html

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