Prime Minister Victor Ponta has denied accusations that he copied parts of his PhD thesis, claiming it is all part of a political plot against him.“I never copied large parts of my doctoral thesis without clear attribution and I am ready to undergo any kind of checks to prove this fact,” Ponta said on Tuesday, accusing his rival, Romania’s President, of being behind the whole business.“I know who is behind these unproven claims against me: the team of President Traian Basescu, his political adviser and the former Education Minister, respectively,” he said. “It is just a political plot against me,” Ponta told reporters.
The row over the thesis comes as President and Prime Minister are already at loggerheads over who should represent Romania at a forthcoming EU meeting, with both claiming the right to go.
Ponta’s statements followed claims made on Monday by a science journal, Nature, which said documents presented by a whistleblower show that substantial sections of Ponta’s PhD thesis were identical, or almost so, to material in monographs written by other Romanian law scholars.
Ponta obtained his PhD in 2003 from the University of Bucharest while working as Secretary of State in the government of former prime minister Adrian Nastase – who was also his PhD supervisor.
“The fact that my thesis on the International Criminal Court is of interest to Nature is a bit comical,” Ponta added, noting that the journal specialises in science and medicine.
The controversy has prompted Romania’s body in charge of checking the authenticity of scientific works, CNADTCU, to start an investigation.
“Most likely the investigation will start by the end of this month,” Dorel Banabic, CNADTCU’s vice-president, said on Tuesday.
The plagiarism claims come just a month after former education minister Ioan Mang resigned over allegations by researchers from Japan, Israel and Taiwan that he had copied scientific papers on information technology without attribution. Mang also said the charges against him were politically motivated.
The scandal also comes after Ponta was forced to drop his first candidate to replace Mang in the education portfolio.
Corina Dumitrescu was also at the centre of a scandal after the media spotted several grammatical and spelling mistakes in her CV.
A short investigation concluded that Dumitrescu has never studied at Stanford University in the US, as she claimed in her CV, on which the university’s name was also misspelled.
Ponta, 40, was nominated Prime Minister by President Basescu in early May, following a vote of no-confidence against the cabinet of Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.