Lawmakers clash in parliament over project

By Clement Edward Kumsah
taiwan_paliament_clash

Taiwan's parliament descended into chaos for a second consecutive day Friday with lawmakers wielding chairs above their heads and throwing water balloons as they brawled over a controversial infrastructure project.

It followed repeated disruption on Thursday when rival legislators grabbed each other's throats in angry scuffles during a review of the budget for the project.

The plan is one of President Tsai Ing-wen's signature proposals and includes building light rail lines, flood control measures and green energy facilities.

But the opposition Kuomintang party is against the project, 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.

Critics have also questioned the whopping Tw$420 billion ($13.8 billion) cost of the project.

Premier Lin Chuan was prevented from delivering his report on the budget Thursday after a water balloon was thrown towards him and he left the chamber, with the session called to a halt.

Lin stood on the sidelines again Friday, unable to start speaking as chaos erupted around him.

Opposition lawmakers raised large padded office chairs above their heads, surrounding the podium and tussling with rival legislators to prevent Lin from presenting the report as more water balloons were thrown.

The session was suspended Friday morning.

One lawmaker feeling unwell after the brawl was sent to the parliament's clinic.

Outside the building, the Kuomintang's acting chairman Lin Jung-tzer led a group of legislators and protesters, chanting, "Send back the budget, defend Taiwan!"

President 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 divisive 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.

 

Credit: AFP