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Time’s up for Cristina Cifuentes

It is not enough for the regional leader in Madrid to give back her controversial master’s degree, she must resign from her post

Madrid regional leader Cristina Cifuentes.
Madrid regional leader Cristina Cifuentes.Claudio Alvarez/EL PAIS

Madrid regional leader Cristina Cifuentes has gone from explaining in detail how she defended her master’s thesis at the King Juan Carlos University to handing back the qualification because it isn’t “worth anything,” because “now” she doesn’t want it and because of the irregularities which, she says, have nothing to do with her. Behind this capricious act to throw back what one month ago she had so ardently defended lies a desperate attempt to buy time, which clearly, will not save her career.

These problems do not only affect Cifuentes, they also directly affect Prime Minister Rajoy

The regional leader of Madrid must go. And go as soon as possible. She could take the initiative herself, or be pushed out by the opposition’s no-confidence motion or from orders by the head of the Popular Party, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Cifuentes has lied, contradicted herself and tried to wash her hands clean by blaming the university for the irregularities when they became the subject of a criminal not just journalistic investigation. But, above all, she is calling into question institutions that are not exactly overflowing with support at this delicate moment for the country.

Because of all of this, because her situation affects key institutions, these problems do not only affect Cifuentes, they also directly affect PM Rajoy. But in its blind and stubborn scramble to move forward, the Popular Party (PP) has insisted that she will not be investigated, ignoring a major tenet of the investiture agreement signed with Ciudadanos that gave the PP control of the regional government – the call for resignation in cases where a resume has been falsified.

Rajoy must be aware that the deterioration of the regional institution, the university, and the position of his party are big enough issues to warrant a fast response. Cifuentes continues to resist stepping down and has passed the ball to the government, whose support she says she still has.

Giving back her degree will not save her political career

And it is the government, in the absence of a more honorable exit, that should end the situation with a credible and immediate succession plan. Subjecting Ciudadanos to a public fight over the no-confidence motion – which would see the PP lose control of the government in Madrid – and replacing Cifuentes for another leader, would be a double punishment for voters. On the one hand, the party endures the presence of a leader who fraudulently obtained a title and on the other, they show their inability to confront the corruption with the speed this society needs.

Cifuentes should not have returned her master’s degree, or not solely, but rather resigned from her post. The leader, who has had to avoid an official dinner with the president of Portugal and the Saudi prince, cannot represent the region of Madrid on the May 2 regional holiday celebrations. Action must be taken now.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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