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The crisis asking the Spanish Prime Minister to step down, explained

A new economic crisis has opposition party members calling for the Spanish Prime Minister to step down. Here's why.

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A demonstrator wearing a mask depicting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy protests outside the Spanish National court in Madrid on July 15, 2013 while People Party's (PP) former party treasurer appears in the court over a slush fund scandal. (Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images)

New accusations about an alleged long-running slush fund are threatening to sink the Spanish government.

For several years, Spanish authorities have been investigating the existence of a fund run that allowed contractors to secure no-bid construction project deals from the government.  

El Pais has reported that corporate donors allegedly made secret payments to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other Popular Party members in exchange for public contracts for nearly 20 years.

Rajoy took power in 2011, but held high-level positions in the PP for years, including serving as Deputy Prime Minister from 2000 to 2003.

Luis Bárcenas, the former PP treasurer who would have controlled the alleged fund, is being interrogated right now by Spanish investigators, and El Mundo reports Bárcenas has declared Rajoy was one of the beneificaries of a secret Party account.

Rajoy supporters have attacked Bárcenas credibility, but a lawyer and friend of Bárcenas recently told a radio station, “He has enough information to make the government fall,” the New York Times' Raphael Minder reports.

The case has already sunk the approval ratings of a Spanish government still trying to get a grip on the country's financial crisis to near record lows.

In a recent survey, 86% of Spaniards said they did not trust Mr. Rajoy, and 23% said they would now vote for the Popular Party, Minder says. Elections are not scheduled until 2015.

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