Xpat Opinion: Moral And Political Confusion In Hungary

  • 21 Nov 2012 7:59 AM
Xpat Opinion: Moral And Political Confusion In Hungary
"I decided to update three recent posts. On Saturday and Sunday I wrote about LMP’s decision not to begin negotiations with the “Together 2014″ group. Yesterday I reported on the latest plagiarism case involving Zsolt Semjén, chairman of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) and deputy to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The update is necessary because in the last two days there have been some interesting developments on both fronts. More and more information is becoming available on the plagiarism case of Zsolt Semjén. And the dissenters within LMP have not exactly been quiet.

Let’s start with LMP. As is evident from an interview in Népszabadság with Benedek Jávor, former LMP whip, even those delegates who voted for negotiations with “Together 2014″ wanted to build in the right to blackball other parties or organizations that might plan to join Gordon Bajnai’s organization in the future. Even Jávor and his deputies, Gergely Karácsony and Tímea Szabó, most likely would have supported the idea of vetoing MSZP’s and DK’s admission. No wonder that Vera Lánczos wasn’t exactly enamored with the idea. In fact, she expressed her relief on Galamus that the negotiations came to naught. I tend to agree with Lánczos. After all, what is the use of having an umbrella organization that leaves out the largest opposition party with 1.3 million supporters and the sympathizers of DK who are most enthusiastic about forming a united opposition?

Jávor suggested, at least on Sunday, that the next elections could be won without MSZP. He for one didn’t want to join the socialists. For him even the person of Gordon Bajnai was problematic. Jávor’s cooperation with Bajnai seems to have extended only to the rebuilding of Hungarian democracy. From this particular interview I couldn’t find out what Bajnai’s sins were as far as Jávor and his friends were concerned, but his next interview with HVG made that somewhat clearer.

In this second interview on Monday Jávor objected strenuously to Bajnai’s economic ideas. He also expressed his intense dislike of Ferenc Gyurcsány. And most likely he wouldn’t be happy if Gábor Kuncze, former SZDSZ party chairman, joined the organization. So, if I read this interview right, Jávor and his friends want to have an exclusive relationship with “Together 2014.” The plan is really preposterous: to exclude all other parties once LMP is part of this new umbrella organization.

But that was only one message from the interview. Jávor criticized András Schiffer and his followers within LMP who want to build “a new formation based [solely] on Milla, Solidarity and other forces outside of parliament.” So, after all, he admits that he needs the other parties, but which ones if not the existing ones? I think LMP politicians are a confused lot.

The breakup of LMP is still not out of the question. The first step toward a possible dissolution took place today when eight LMP members of parliament out of a delegation of fifteen created a new “platform.” ”Platform” in Hungarian party jargon identifies a separate ideological group within a party. The socialists have several platforms representing different ideologies from left to right within the party. LMP never had platforms before. The name of the new LMP platform is “Dialogue for Hungary.” Both Jávor and Schiffer claim that the party will remain intact, but Népszava already predicted that LMP’s breakup is inevitable.

As for Zsolt Semjén’s dissertation, it looks as if Péter Pázmány Catholic University will not investigate the plagiarism charge against its favorite son, the deeply religious Semjén. The conversion of doctoral degrees to Ph.D.’s was done by “a group of international experts” between 1997 and 1999 and the procedure was legal from the point of view of both the Church authorities and the Hungarian state.

However, ELTE might have a different opinion on Semjén’s senior paper, which was submitted without any mention of the fact that practically the entire paper had been turned in at another university for another degree. Tamás Lukács, a lawyer and a KDNP member of parliament, might think that “if someone uses himself as a source it is not plagiarism,” but in fact it is unacceptable at most institutions to submit the same paper to fulfill the requirements for more than one course. Unless the instructor grants permission.

In the sociology department of ELTE there were a few raised eyebrows, at least originally, about Semjén’s senior paper. Nikosz Fokasz, the department’s current chairman, recalled that the first reader failed the paper because he maintained that the topic of the paper had little if anything to do with sociology. It was mostly about religion. But the department solved the problem by appointing another reader, Professor György Csepeli, who found the paper “excellent.” According to Népszabadság, however, Csepeli’s “A” stood in contrast to the second reader’s “C”. Semjén is at least forthcoming. His dissertation and senior paper are available online and today he even made his transcript public. He claims that the senior paper received a “B”.

For me one of the most shocking statements on this subject came from the socialist István Hiller, former minister of education. Before he became a politician Hiller taught history at ELTE. He achieved the rank of associate professor. He speaks German, Italian, and English, and his knowledge of Latin and Greek is also excellent. He received the lecturer of the year award in 2001. And yet this man found the plagiarism case old hat. He quoted the Hungarian saying that only cabbage is good warmed up. The reference is naturally to the case of Pál Schmitt. He claims that all a candidate must demonstrate is that he has “original ideas.” There is no such thing as “percentages of borrowing.” According to him, “research is built on research, the new researchers add their own to the accumulated knowledge of the predecessors.” In his opinion, Semjén’s doctoral dissertation unquestionably meets the necessary requirements. The senior paper is “a borderline case.” To decide he would have to study the texts.

Shame on István Hiller. For his sake I’m going to quote again Yale University’s definition of plagiarism: “the use of another’s work, words, or ideas without attribution” which includes “using a source’s language without quoting, using information from a source without attribution, and paraphrasing a source in a form that stays too close to the original.” If István Hiller is planning to return to academe I strongly recommend that he learns what plagiarism means. In a great hurry!"

Source: Hungarian Spectrum

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