The lower house of the Czech parliament is due on Friday to hold a final reading of the widely unpopular church restitution bill that would see the return of around half the property the former communist regime confiscated from the Catholic Church and other religious group, worth some Kč 75 billion, and a phased cash payout of Kč 59 billion.
However, the main opposition center-left Social Democrats (ČSSD), the Communists (KSČM) and the rump Public Affairs (VV) party —which have all come out against the restitution bill in its current form — are expected to try to push the vote back to September, after the summer recess.
By a slim margin, the center-right coalition government of Prime Minister Petr Nečas’ (Civic Democrat, ODS) survived a vote of confidence in late April that he said would be the “best test” of support for his government following a split in VV, which has since left the government, and for its chances of pushing through the restitution bill and painful austerity measures.
ČSSD deputies club chairman Jeroným Tejc has said delaying consideration of the bill a few months would give politicians time to reach a compromise on the main sticking point, namely the size and scope of the restitution.
Tejc’s counterpart in the junior coalition party TOP 09, Petr Gazdík, has said that a postponement would not be a major problem. “Whether the church restitution bill is approved in July, September or even November is not important for us,” he said.