PRAGUE/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Czech legislators have voted to hold early elections that are expected to be dominated by left-wing parties who oppose a plan to pay billions of dollars in compensation to churches for properties that were seized from them by the previous Communist regime.
Churches faced more uncertainty Wednesday, August 21, as the chairman of the Communist Party, Vojtěch Filip, said he would push for a referendum on the controversial law on restitution “if there will be a strong left-wing showing” in the October 25-26 ballot.
The main Social Democrats (CSSD), who also oppose the scope of the restitution and are open to form a coalition with the Communists, said they would prefer to reach “an amicable agreement” with church representatives.
Under the plan 16 churches will receive 59 billion koruna ($3 billion) in financial compensation over the next 30 years. They will also get 56 percent of their former property now held by the state — about 75 billion koruna ($3.8 billion).
However thestate is also to gradually stop covering their expenses over the next 17 years. The plan is highly controversial in what is viewed as Europe’s most atheistic nation.
DEAL PRIME MINISTER
The deal was backed by previous Prime Minister Peter Nečas and his center right government. But he was forced to resign in June after a senior aide with whom he allegedly had an extra-marital affair was charged with bribery and abuse of power.
The aid allegedly had put the prime minister’s wife under surveillance.
Two former parliamentarians, an ex-minister and the current and former heads of military intelligence were also detained in the country’s largest ever anti-corruption investigation. President Miloš Zeman appointed a long-time leftist ally Jiří Rusnok as Nečas successor and sworn in his technocratic “government of experts” in July.
Yet critics accused Zeman of trying to grab powers from parliament and the government failed to win a vote of confidence. Late Tuesday, August 20, came the final setback for the president when 140 members of the 200-seat ‘Chamber of Deputies’ voted to dissolve themselves and approved the early ballot in the troubled nation.
Ahead of the vote, Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka said he had spoken with outgoing Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok about more than 11,000 land claims made so far, but it remained unclear what would happen with those requests.
The center-left (CSSD) will be the biggest party, though they need support from other groups to govern, according to opinion polls.
Yet CSSD leader Bohuslav Sohuslav said he believes “A dissolved parliament would be a success for the social democrats.” And, “I am convinced that people will give us their votes during the upcoming elections,” Sohuslav added.
Tuesday’s vote to dissolve the lower house was the first ever such decision by Czech lawmakers as regular elections were scheduled for May next year.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).
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