LONDON - As a rule, politicians are forced to resign from office either because they are embroiled in a scandal about their conduct or their financial arrangements, or occasionally, an unacceptable remark they either made or were accidentally overheard saying in public.
But in Europe, another spectre is toppling politicians from power: plagiarism, the discovery that they cheated in obtaining the higher university degrees they claim to hold instead of completing their academic research.
The government of Romania is now struggling to remain in power after a number of its high-ranking ministers are facing accusations of having copied large parts of their doctoral theses.
Mr Lucian Bode, the east European country’s interior minister, obtained a doctorate with a thesis on Romania’s energy security at the highly-reputable Cluj university in Transylvania.
Appointed minister in December 2020, he should have made his doctoral thesis public for anyone to consult, but he refused public access to the manuscript.
Enterprising local journalists thought they knew the answer to this secrecy: they could find no trace that the minister undertook any research work in the libraries and bookstores of Romania.
And soon enough, claims surfaced in the local media that no less than 65 out of Mr Bode’s 194 pages-long doctoral theses may have been copied from the works of others.
“The accusations against me are unjustified; they are motivated by political interests,” the minister said in his defence. But his university has now decreed that “the suspicions of plagiarism are confirmed,” and his political career is hanging by a thread after he lost an appeal last week against the university’s ruling.
Mr Bode is hardly the only Romanian politician to experience this embarrassment.
In November 2021, the minister for research, innovation and digitisation, Mr Florin Roman, resigned following reports by an investigative journalist proving the plagiarism of his academic thesis. And in September 2022, it was the turn of national education minister Sorin Cimpeanu to go for the same reason.
Romanian voters are accustomed to such shenanigans. During much of the previous decade, the country was gripped by the drama of Mr Victor Ponta, the prime minister, who spent years denying claims that he plagiarised his doctoral thesis.
To protect themsel...