Brawl erupts in Italian Parliament over autonomy plans

Foreign Minister Tajani condemned violence, stressed political disputes to be resolved without physical altercations.

AFP June 14, 2024

A fierce brawl erupted in the Italian parliament on Wednesday evening over the far-right government's plans to grant regions more autonomy, triggering widespread uproar and drawing comparisons to the days of fascism.

The altercation began when Five Star Movement (MS5) deputy Leonardo Donno attempted to tie an Italian flag around the neck of regional affairs minister Roberto Calderoli from the pro-autonomy Northern League. Donno's stunt aimed to denounce plans for greater regional autonomy, which critics argue would undermine Italy's unity.

In response, deputies from Calderoli's League party swarmed Donno, turning the debate into a chaotic free-for-all involving about 20 men. Donno, injured in the scuffles, had to be evacuated in a wheelchair and taken to hospital.

The brawl sparked a torrent of reactions from political leaders and dominated the front pages of Italian newspapers. La Repubblica decried the incident with the headline, "The squadrist right is fighting in parliament," referencing post-World War I paramilitary forces that became Mussolini's Blackshirts. Corriere della Sera described the chamber as a "boxing ring."

Lawmakers from the League and the Brothers of Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's party, accused Donno of provoking the incident and faking his injuries. The M5S condemned the attack as "serious and shameful" and called for immediate measures. "Violence comes from the benches of the Meloni majority... Shame," wrote M5S leader Giuseppe Conte on social media.

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani acknowledged that lawmakers should hold themselves to a higher standard, stating on Sky TG24, "The chamber is not a boxing ring... it's not fisticuffs that solve political problems."

Critics argue that the autonomy proposal will lead to cutbacks in public services in poorer regions. This incident is not unprecedented; in 2021, deputies from the Brothers of Italy disrupted a debate on the COVID-19 health pass by mobbing the centre of the chamber.

The brawl in parliament underscores the deep divisions and heated emotions surrounding the issue of regional autonomy in Italy


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