Opposition scolds Bettel over plagiarism row
Luxembourg's opposition parties and academics alike blasted Prime Minister Xavier Bettel's handling of a plagiarism row that forced him to rescind his postgraduate degree on Tuesday after a newspaper found he had plagiarised the the vast majority of his thesis.
"Such behaviour hurts our democracy. Particularly in the current crisis, it is important to have politicians at the helm of the country that people can trust", Sven Clement, a deputy for the Pirate Party, told the Luxembourg Times. "How can the premier enjoy the trust of the citizens ... if they know that he does not shy away from cheating to reach his goal as a private person?".
Bettel asked the University of Lorraine in Nancy to cancel his degree on Tuesday after his alma mater concluded that Bettel had written passages that "could be considered a form of plagiarism" following the newspaper revelations.
The pro-business liberal, who came to power in 2013, saw his popularity drop by seven percentage points in a survey of Luxembourgish voters after the scandal broke out, although he remained in third place among his colleagues.
The scandal was also the source of public amusement, with social media depicting Bettel as the lead character in the widely-watched Luxembourg-produced Netflix series Capitani, which they renamed "Copytani".
Luxembourg's largest opposition party, the CSV christian democrats, blasted Bettel for undermining his international reputation and credibility, party chief Claude Wiseler told the Luxemburger Wort.
And Fernand Kartheiser, a lawmaker for the conservative nationalists of the ADR, said that "Bettel's international and domestic credibility has suffered through this affair. It is an obvious disadvantage for our country when the prime minister's credibility is damaged in this way."
But the parliamentary leaders of the governing social-democrats and Bettel's own Democratic Party remained mum, with the Greens the only of the three-party coalition issuing a tight-lipped statement, saying they welcomed that Bettel had decided to retract his degree. When the scandal first broke, the representatives of the government parties refused comment.
If Bettel was the target of criticism, so was his university, which had issued a carefully crafted statement saying that while Bettel's thesis was "original work" it still contained several passages "that could be considered plagiarism".
"In principle it is possible that a piece of work is "original", but contains single plagiarisms. For example, it is conceivable that a work contains two or three problematic points", Anna-Lena Högenauer, a political science researcher at the University of Luxembourg, told the Luxembourg Times.
"However, in this case there are several pages. One of the most important passages in the analysis is six pages long and makes up 10% of the work - [those passages] are definitely not original," she said.
Bettel's university also said that academic standards were different at the time, as did the prime minister himself. "The Université de Lorraine did not do themselves any favours. In this case, they were judge and defendant. They missed an opportunity to uphold academic standards", Kartheiser said.