The president of the Madrid regional government resigned her post at a press conference on Wednesday. Cristina Cifuentes, of the conservative PP party, had been embroiled in a month-long political storm over the supposed faking of her master's degree by a university, but had held on, refusing to leave her position.
However, in the end it was the publication of a 2011 CCTV video by website OKdiario that forced her out. In the audioless footage, taken in a back room at a supermakret next to the regional assembly building in Madrid, the elegantly dressed politician can be seen opening out her bag in front of a security guard to reveal two tubs of 40-euro Oil of Olay anti-ageing cream that she had tried to leave the store without paying for.
Cifuentes said in her appearance before the press on Wednesday that it was “an error and an involuntary action”, that she regretted, accusing her enemies of releasing the video, which was taken when she was already a long-standing regional assembly member, to destroy her.
Although not shown in the video, police were apparently called but the politician was eventually allowed to pay up and leave discreetly by the store's back door, said sources.
There was shock and disbelief at both ends of the political spectrum, including from within her own party, over how a possible future successor to prime minister Mariano Rajoy could fall from grace so quickly and spectacularly.
It was Rajoy himself who ordered Cifuentes to resign on Wednesday and he has been criticised for not pushing her out sooner over the ongoing scandal of a master's award from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid.
Cifuentes is alleged not to have attended classes or given in course work. An investigation into possible criminal falsification of official documentation by the university is currently under way.