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An Italian politician who pledged to clean up nepotism and corruption in Italy and encourage a meritocracy is to pull out from the forthcoming general elections over claims that he fabricated his CV.
Prominent business journalist Oscar Giannino, 52, rose quickly with his newly founded Fare Per Fermare il Declino (Stop the Decline) party, which railed against corruption.
But with just days to go before the elections his political career is on the rocks after a co-founder of his party accused him of making up his CV and padding it out with false qualifications.
Giannino claimed to have earned a Master's at the University of Chicago School of Business in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Copies of Giannino's résumé circulating online made the same claim.
But his party colleague Luigi Zingales - who happens to be a finance professor at the same university - double-checked the assertion and discovered it was fake.
Zingales swiftly left the party after posting on Facebook his shock findings.
"I have always thought that even the soundest ideals need to be supported by sound legs," Zingales wrote. "It is a serious incident, especially within a party preaching merit, transparency and honesty."
Giannino initially said that he was a victim of a misunderstanding.
He said he did study in Chicago but attended a simple English-language course and not a Master's degree in finance and public finance. He claimed he was not aware of the false claims reported in online copies of his resume.
But when the video of the Repubblica interview went viral he was forced to publicly apologise and offer his resignation as Fare leader.
"I apologise to all of our [supporters]. I've made a terrible mistake," Giannino said. "The incident is to be considered by Fare's directorate. I am open to every kind of solution."
Founded only at the end of December, Fare quickly gained popular support among businessmen, academics and young people with conservative and liberal ideals, who felt unrepresented by Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party (PDL) and let down by PM Mario Monti's austerity policies.
According to recent opinion polls, before the CV scandal erupted, Fare held about 3 percent of preferences nationwide. It was particularly strong in the bellwether constituencies of Lombardy.
"[Giannino] was supposed to be a member of our coalition but while we were preparing it he was in Chicago earning his Master's degree," Berlusconi jeered at a political convention.
Italian voters are to cast their ballots on 24-25 February.