Taiwan’s parliament descends into chaos and punch-ups between MPs in ugly scenes during debate

Taiwan’s parliament descends into chaos and punch-ups between MPs in ugly scenes during debate

Taiwanese MPs punched, kicked, pushed and shoved each other during a heated debate over a set of reforms in the island’s parliament.

The scuffle took place on Friday morning when the parliament was set to debate a proposal to give lawmakers more power to oversee the government’s actions.

During the chaotic scenes that followed, some MPs surrounding the speaker’s seat, with many jumping over tables and others pulling colleagues to the floor. The fight was stopped but it restarted later and continued until the afternoon.

The brawl came just days before president-elect Lai Ching-te is set to take office without a legislative majority on Monday.

Taiwan’s two major parties, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which is set to form a government and the Kuomintang (KMT), the main opposition, are in strong disagreement over draft reforms which includes a controversial move to criminalise officials who are deemed to make false statements in parliament.

The law was proposed by the KMT and its allies but it has been rejected by Mr Lai’s DPP as “an unconstitutional abuse of power”.

The debate got heated even before the lawmakers entered the House, with members exchanging accusations and insults outside the chamber.

Wang Mei-hui, a DPP lawmaker representing the southern city of Chiayi, told Reuters: “Why are we opposed? We want to be able to have discussions, not for there to be only one voice in the country.”

Jessica Chen, a KMT legislator from the Taiwan-administered Kinmen islands just off the coast of mainland China, said the reforms were aimed to improve 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 told Reuters, wearing a military-style helmet.

Politicians from all three parties which have MPs in parliament – the DPP, the KMT and the smaller Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) – were involved in the fight and later traded accusations about who was to blame.

The formation of the new government is already under dispute, as Mr Lai’s DPP lost its majority in parliament despite winning the January elections.

The opposition KMT has more seats than the DPP but not enough to form a majority of its own, and is seeking to form a coalition with the TPP, which controls eight of the parliament’s 113 seats.

The brawl is being seen as an ominous sign of troubles ahead for the new government.

The DPP’s Wang added: “I am worried.”

This isn’t the first time an ugly physical fight has broken out in the Taiwanese parliament. Indeed, while parliamentary brawls occur occasionally in other countries, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan is notorious for them.

In 2020, members of the Nationalist Party brought pig guts into the chamber and threw them around in a melee to protest Taiwan’s removal of a ban on American pork products.

In 2021, lawmakers again descended into a rowdy brawl after opposition lawmakers interrupted an important policy address and rushed the podium. A few lawmakers were shoved to the ground and others poured out bottles of water onto their opponents.