TAIPEI: A brawl erupted in Taiwan’s parliament as lawmakers tried to choke each other and threw water bombs during a chaotic session on Thursday as the government of President Tsai Ing-wen pressed ahead with controversial reforms.
Female legislators from opposing camps had their hands on each other’s throats as a dozen colleagues pushed and shouted trying to separate them in the main chamber during a review of the budget for a major infrastructure project.
The opposition Kuomintang party is against the plan, saying it favours cities and counties faithful to Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and has been devised to secure support for the party ahead of next year’s regional elections.
The project includes light rail lines, flood control measures and green energy facilities.
Critics have also questioned whether the whopping Tw$420 billion (£10.7 billion) cost of the project is really worthwhile.
The morning review hearing was suspended following the brawl as Kuomintang lawmakers occupied the podium.
Lunch failed to calm tensions and the clashes continued into the afternoon when opposition lawmakers honked air horns and tried to throw balloons filled with water at premier Lin Chuan.
One of the balloons flew near Lin and burst mid-air. He was forced to leave the chamber without delivering a report on the budget and the session was again abandoned.
The DPP condemned what it called the KMT’S “violent boycott” and demanded an apology.
“We call for rational discussions …to resolve differences,” it said in a statement.
Tsai has seen her popularity plummet to under 40 percent from nearly 70 percent when she took office in May last year as her government attempts to tackle a range of controversial issues from gay marriage to pension and judicial reforms.
Violent protests erupted outside the parliament in April when opponents of pension reforms attacked politicians and scuffled with police, prompting Tsai to call for calm and restraint.
Parliament was also plunged into chaos late last year when opposing lawmakers brawled in the chamber, as labour activists set off smoke bombs outside in protest at proposed holiday cuts.