ROMANIA’S new prime minister, Victor Ponta, has been accused by an anonymous whistle-blower of copying large parts of his doctoral thesis without attribution, the journal Nature has reported.
Nature said it had seen documents indicating that more than half of Ponta's 432-page, 2003 Romanian-language thesis on the International Criminal Court for his doctorate at the University of Bucharest consisted of duplicated text.
Mr Ponta denied the accusations. "I am ready to undergo any kind of checks," he was quoted as saying by the Romanian news agency Agerpres while on a visit to Vienna.
Ponta's left wing-dominated Social Liberal Union (USL) alliance took power in May after toppling the government of Mihai Razvan Ungureanu in a confidence vote and, with backing of about 50 per cent in opinion polls, looks set to consolidate power after an election in November.
But Vlad Nistor, an analyst with BT Asset Management, said if the allegation were true, "Ponta will have to step down, and we would probably see a power struggle inside the USL that could lead to a break in that alliance".
Nature quoted Marius Andruh, a chemist at the University of Bucharest and president of the Romanian council for the recognition of university diplomas, as saying: "The evidence of plagiarism is overwhelming."
Romania has come under pressure from the turmoil in the euro zone but Ponta has committed his government to a 5 billion euro aid deal led by the International Monetary Fund while securing its agreement to ease the austerity measures that helped to topple the previous two governments.
Any uncertainty over the future of his government could revive pressure on the Romanian leu, which is already trading close to all-time lows against the euro.
Ponta's thesis was republished with very minor amendments as a book in 2004, and also forms the basis of a 2010 book on liability in international humanitarian law. A former PhD student of Ponta's, Daniela Coman, is named as co-author of the books, Nature said.
"Substantial sections of text in all three publications seem to be identical, or almost so, to material in monographs written in Romanian by law scholars Dumitru Diaconu and Vasile Cretu," the magazine reported.
"They also feature direct Romanian translations of parts of an English-language publication by law scholar Ion Diaconu."