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Madrid’s conservative leader in ‘false’ diploma row

University authorities in Spain said Wednesday they suspected “serious irregularities” over the awarding of a masters law degree to the conservative president of Madrid’s regional government as pressure mounted for her to resign.

When leading politicians “say they have a masters they should be in a position to guarantee they do and if they say they do but do not … that is grounds to resign,” said the chairman of Spain’s conference of university rectors, Roberto Fernandez, without naming Cristina Cifuentes.

Along with the ongoing political stalemate in Catalonia, the issue helped to overshadow a weekend conference of the ruling Popular Party (PP).

The rectors said in a statement if it transpired that Cifuentes’ masters award from Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University was bogus it would be a very serious matter.

Cifuentes has been caught in a media storm amid accusations she obtained the diploma without taking all the required exams and rarely attending lectures. Further allegations have been made that documents allowing her to receive the diploma were falsified.

The public prosecutor is investigating the claims.

Cifuentes, touted by the PP as a new broom in a party tainted by scandal in recent years, has denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign despite some in her own party opposing her staying in her post.

The PP’s centre right ally Ciudadanos, a key backer in the regional parliament, is among those urging her to go while the leftist opposition is preparing a motion of censure.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who initially swung behind his party colleague, has urged the affair be resolved “as quickly as possible with as much common sense as possible” fearing it could taint PP’s image as the government looks to next year’s municipal, regional and European elections.