Scandal-plagued Madrid leader steps down

Suspected of fraudulently obtaining a master’s degree, she also hit the headlines more recently for allegedly shoplifting in a supermarket

MADRID: Madrid’s conservative regional president, Cristina Cifuentes, announced her resignation Wednesday in the wake of a scandal about a master’s degree she is suspected of obtaining fraudulently.

“All of my actions, my whole life has been called into question,” 54-year-old Cifuentes said, claiming she was the victim of a lynch mob.

Cifuentes has been caught in a media storm over accusations she got the 2011-2012 law diploma from Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University (URJC) without taking all the required exams and rarely attending lectures.

She also hit the headlines more recently for allegedly shoplifting in a supermarket.

Announcing her resignation, Cifuentes, who has been president of the Madrid region for three years, said that she had taken the decision “to take a step back a few days ago” in order to stop the left from wresting power in the region.

The left had indeed filed a motion to censure her — a move that was likely to succeed after the centre-right Ciudadanos party withdrew its support for her.

Cifuentes had been supposed to spearhead a campaign to restore the conservative party’s image that has been tainted by a series of corruption scandals.

Following the uproar over her university degree, a right-wing daily OK Diario on Wednesday published a video dating back to 2011 that purportedly showed Cifuentes shoplifting.

Cifuentes confirmed the authenticity of the video, but insisted that she had “involuntarily” taken around 40 euros worth of products.

She did not put forward a potential successor, with a year to go before regional elections in Madrid, which accounts for around 20 per cent of the country’s entire economy.

Her resignation came “after a shameful month”, said Inigo Errejon of the far-left Podemos party.

“We are satisfied. Madrid deserves a change,” said Ciudadanos president Albert Rivera.

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