PRAGUE/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)— The Czech Republic is facing uncertainty after the
government headed by Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok resigned, paving the way for early elections. Tuesday’s official announcement comes while churches were seeking compensation for properties that were nationalized by the previous Communist regime when devoted Christians and their leaders were persecuted.
The ally of left-wing President Miloš Zeman was only appointed in June following a major espionage and corruption scandal.
Rusnok’s Cabinet replaced the centre-right government of Petr Nečas, who was forced to step down after his chief of staff and alleged mistress was charged with bribery and abuse of power.
Yet the new cabinet failed to win a vote of confidence in Parliament. Now an early election is expected as soon as October, if deputies will deliver on their promise to vote in favour of dissolving the lower house.
In that case the Czech Constitution requires the president to formally dissolve Parliament and call an early general election within the next 60 days, possibly in October.
Outgoing Prime Minister Rusnok told reporters that until that time his cabinet will focus on the day-to-day governing of the country, without making any far-reaching decisions. “Our priorities are clear: We are an outgoing government, and our priority is to keep public institutions running and to make sure that public administration works as it should,” he said.
“That’s what we’ll do. Whenever we will feel some decisions are required to meet these goals, we will of course make them.”
The political turmoil comes at a sensitive time for churches. On the eve of his announced resignation, Rusnok met Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka.
Archbishop Duka said he talked with the Prime Minister about more than 11,000 land claims made so far.
Churches hope to receive back their properties that were taken by the previous Communist regime.
Bishop Duka said he told Prime Minister Rusnok that the “continuity of the restitution process needs to be maintained so that all the deadlines set by law are met.”
It is unclear how the resignation will impact that process, which has been criticized by the opposition.
Under the law on property settlement between the Czech state and churches, which was introduced in January, some 17 churches and religious organisations will receive back land and real estate worth 75 billion crowns ($3.9 billion), confiscated from them by the Communist regime when the country was still part of Czechoslovakia.
They will be given 59 billion crowns ($3 billion) adjusted to inflation in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 years.
Most of the property would go to the Catholic Church, church observers said.
At the same time the payment of state subsidies that churches now receive will be gradually reduced until it is completely terminated after 17 years, according to plans. Yet there is concern within the churches about possible delays and opposition in what is considered Europe’s most atheistic nation and concerns over the economy.
The political tensions could not have come at a worse moment for the Czech republic as it struggles to recover from recession.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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