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Chaos reigns in Taiwanese parliament as lawmakers exchange blows in dispute over reforms | VIDEO

Lawmakers clashed over parliament reforms calling for greater scrutiny of the government, proposed by the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and the smaller TPP. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party accused them of 'abusing power' by forcing the proposals without consultation.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Taipei Published on: May 17, 2024 15:44 IST
Taiwan, Taiwan parliament, Taiwan lawmakers fight
Image Source : REUTERS Taiwanese lawmakers argue and exchange blows during a parliamentary session

Taipei: Shocking scenes emerged from the Taiwanese parliament as lawmakers shoved, tackled and attacked each other on Friday in a bitter dispute about reforms to the chamber, mere days before President-elect Lai Ching-te is set to take office without a legislative majority. Taiwanese lawmakers were seen screaming and shoving each other outside the legislative chamber before the votes were cast for the reforms, which then moved to the floor of the parliament.

In chaotic scenes, lawmakers approached the speaker's seat, some leaping over tables and pulling colleagues to the floor. Though calm soon returned, there were more scuffles in the afternoon. This comes before Lai's inauguration on Monday after winning January's election, but his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost its majority in parliament.

The main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), has more seats than the DPP but not enough to form a majority on its own, so it has been working with the small Taiwan People's Party (TPP) to promote their mutual ideas. The opposition wants to give parliament greater scrutiny powers over the government, including a controversial proposal to criminalise officials who are deemed to make false statements in parliament.

Watch the video of the fight

The scuffle over parliamentary reforms emerged after the DPP accused the KMT and TPP of improperly trying to force through the proposals without the customary consultation process in what Lai's party calls "an unconstitutional abuse of power". "Why are we opposed? We want to be able to have discussions, not for there to be only one voice in the country," DPP lawmaker Wang Mei-hui, representing the southern city of Chiayi, told Reuters.

Lawmakers from all three parties were involved in the altercations, and traded accusations about who was to blame. The KMT's Jessica Chen, from the Taiwan-administered Kinmen islands that sit next to the Chinese coast, said the reforms were to enable better legislative oversight of the executive branch. "The DPP does not want this to be passed as they have always been used to monopolising power," she said.

Such scenes are not uncommon in Taiwan's chaotic parliament. In 2020, KMT lawmakers threw pig guts onto the chamber's floor in a dispute over easing US pork imports, then exchanged blows with other lawmakers. The clashes on Friday raised the prospect of more turmoil - and parliamentary conflict - ahead for Lai's new government after it takes office. 

Challenges for Lai's government

Lai could face a tough four years in office with no parliamentary majority, an opposition which wanted to re-start a vexed service trade deal with China and the ever-present threat of military action from Beijing, after losing control of the parliament. China wasted little time in pointing out most electors voted against Lai, with its Taiwan Affairs Office saying that the DPP "cannot represent the mainstream public opinion" on Taiwan.

Lin Fei-fan, a former DPP deputy secretary general who is now a senior member of a party think tank, earlier told Reuters he's "fairly worried" that the new government will have a "very tough" four years, especially on China-related issues. He said opposition lawmakers, who together form a legislative majority, could step up exchanges with China and ask to re-start a controversial service trade pact which Taiwan shelved a decade ago in the face of mass protests.

Over the past year and a half, China has staged two rounds of major war games around Taiwan and its forces regularly operate in the Taiwan Strait. China has also restricted or made more expensive some trade with Taiwan. The DPP had called these actions election interference. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan, which it calls "sacred" Chinese territory, under its control.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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