Efforts to win support for a minority government headed by ANO leader Andrej Babiš have cast doubt on the future of a hard-won settlement between the country’s 16 churches and the State. The ANO leader caused a stir this week when he expressed readiness to support the Communist Party’s demand for church restitutions to be taxed.
Andrej Babiš, tasked with forming a new government after his party ANO won
a decisive victory in the election in October, is looking to tax church
restitution funds, the daily Lidové noviny writes. The funds until now
were exempt in a deal agreed between a previous center-right government and
religious organizations, to offset damages caused by the communist regime
when it unlawfully seized church property in Czechoslovakia after 1948.
Over 30 years, the state is to pay some 59 billion crowns, adjusted for
inflation for property which could no longer be returned (while property
worth 75 billion crowns, was).
Not only Mr Babiš is in favor of taxation, according to the daily, but also the Communist Party, which cited taxation of the funds as crucial for its support of an ANO-led minority government. The Freedom and Direct Democracy Party, led by businessman turned politician Tomio Okamura has also backed the idea.
ANO, the communists and Mr Okamura's party could together easily pass the changes in the new Chamber of Deputies. The change would not, however, be retroactive and could not affect funds returned since the deal went into effect in 2013.
The Supreme Administrative Court on Thursday demanded a recount of
preferential votes cast in the Central Bohemia region for the right of
centre Civic Democratic Party (ODS) following doubts whether they had been
counted properly in 915 districts.
The outcome could affect the election results in the region and the number of seats won by ODS. Talks have been called for November 19, a day before the new lower house of parliament is set to convene for the first time.
The Civic Democrats won four seats in the region, its best performance outside of the capital city, Prague.
The head of the ANO party, Andrej Babiš, has described as absurd
suggestions made by Jiří Hlavatý, who was recently elected to the lower
house on the ANO ticket, iDnes.cz reported. Mr. Hlavatý says the voters
who cast their ballots for him to become an MP should pay for a by-election
to fill his Senate seat. The wealthy businessman automatically lost his
Senate mandate when he won election to the Chamber of Deputies.
Mr. Babiš said he too had not known that the two seats could not be held simultaneously and that everybody made mistakes. But he said it was absurd that Mr. Hlavatý was talking about running for the Senate again and wants voters to pay for the by-election.
The head of the Communist party, Vojtěch Filip met with President Miloš
Zeman at Lány chateau on Tuesday to discuss conditions for supporting a
minority government headed by ANO leader Andrej Babiš. The Communists
would insist, Mr Filip said, on a general referendum bill, a program
regularly raising the minimum wage over a four-year period, and a bill
protecting natural wealth, that is, the ownership of natural resources,
following the recent debate over lithium reserves.
Other items important for the party, Mr Filip told journalists after his meeting with the president, were a matter to be debated. He estimated that a new minority government could face a confidence vote by Christmas.
Andrej Babiš, the head of ANO tasked with forming the new government, has
said he has found a candidate for the post of Minister of Industry and
Trade. However, he has not divulged the person’s name as yet. Mr Babiš
is looking to form a minority government capable of finding broader
political backing in the lower house, after his party won almost 30 percent
of the vote in the election in October.
On Monday, ANO representatives met with representatives of the Civic Democratic party to discuss posts in the new Chamber of Deputies; ANO is pushing for Radek Vondráček to become the new house speaker. Facing opposition to the idea, Babiš pointed out the last election winners, the Social Democrats, had also secured the post.
The Pirates party has said that it would not tolerate a government without
confidence ruling the country for a longer period and would file a
complaint with the Constitutional Court.
Party leader Ivan Bartoš made the statement in response to President Zeman’s words that a government without confidence was better than early elections. The claim drew a negative response from all parties including one from election winner Andrej Babiš from the ANO party who said he would not want to govern without a vote of confidence for four years.
The former head of Slovakia’s National Memory Institute says he came
under pressure over the case of ANO leader Andrej Babiš and the archive
evidence suggesting he was an agent for the communist era secret police,
Ondrej Krajňák said in an interview with Czech Radio that he came under political pressure over the case from some politicians that wanted to preserve good relations with the Czech Republic and was encouraged not to pursue the case with such vigour.
The Slovak Constitutional Court recently overturned an earlier court ruling clearing Babiš of cooperating with the secret police. Babiš says he will appeal.
Krajňák resigned over legal changes to the status of the institution that holds the former police archives.