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Hungary's president resigns

April 2, 2012

Hungarian President Pal Schmitt has resigned after being stripped of his doctorate amid allegations of plagiarism. Schmitt told parliament in Budapest that he felt obliged to quit, having become "a symbol of division."

Hungarian President Pal Schmitt is pictured after he announced his resignation during the plenary session of the Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, April 2, 2012.
Image: AP

President Pal Schmitt resigned from the largely ceremonial position on Monday after less than two years on the job, telling parliament that the plagiarism scandal surrounding him had compromised his position.

"Under the constitution, the president must represent the unity of the Hungarian nation. I have unfortunately become a symbol of division, I feel obliged to leave my position," Schmitt said.

Schmitt was stripped last week of his 1992 doctorate following claims he plagiarized most of the 200-page thesis. The close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban took up the post in June 2010.

Budapest's Semmelweis University revoked Schmitt's doctorate on the history of the Olympic Games on Thursday, prompting speculation that he might step down. Initially, the president sought to stay, saying he could "see no link" between the allegations of plagiarism 20 years ago and his present-day job.

Orban had distanced himself from the public debate on Schmitt, saying in a radio interview on Friday that only the president could decide whether or not he should quit.

The case is reminiscent of that of former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who resigned last March after it was established that he had plagiarized large passages of his doctoral thesis.

msh/ncy (AFP, dpa)