Rough Diplomacy

Nuclear-powered brawl

On the outside, the main building of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan – or parliament – is a picture of calm.

Two rows of neatly-trimmed shrubbery and trees line the courtyard leading to the stately-looking, white building with a Republic of China (Taiwan) flag on top.

But inside, the picture is very different.

In fact, while parliamentary brawls occur occasionally in other countries, Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan is notorious for them.

Please dont kill her she is cute :P

Opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators cover the mouth of Nationalist (KMT) legislator Chao Li-yun during a parliament session inside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei April 21, 2010.

Taiwanese lawmakers exchanged punches and threw water at each other before a vote that would authorise a national referendum on whether to finish building a fourth power plant on the island.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei August 2, 2013

Rowdy and sometimes violent scuffles occur as often as several times a year and even every few days or weeks.

Taipei parliament fight: Legislators from the opposition DPP scuffle

Things turn ugly as accusations fly                                    Photograph: Wally Santana/AP

Punching, hair pulling, throwing plastic bottles and water balloons, as well as splashing cups of water on the faces of rival party legislators are common scenes. Air-horns and filibustering – more like shouting – are also used to drown out one’s opponents.

Taipei parliament fight: Scuffles in the Yuan, Taipei

Taiwan’s legislators were voting on whether to adopt the proposed     referendum on the controversial construction of the fourth nuclear power      plant in New Taipei City

Taipei parliament fight: A megaphone stirs up emotions

Legislators from the opposition Democratic Progressive party (DPP) occupy the podium to stop the parliament session Photograph: Pichi Chuang/Reuters

Taipei parliament fight: Huang Wen-ling (L), a legislator from th

Huang Wen-ling (L), a legislator from the main opposition Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), resorts to pouring water during the scuffle before the vote Photograph: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

Taipei parliament fight: Pan Mon-an, a legislator from Taiwan

Other members try to restrain burly Pan Mon-an, a legislator from Taiwan’s main opposition Democratic Progressive party (DPP) Photograph: SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images

Taipei parliament fight: Legislator Chiu Chih-Wei

They end up rolling over banners on the floor of the house Photograph: Pichi Chuang/Reuters

Taipei parliament fight: Legislators attempt to remove a chair

Opposition members (in yellow and green) attempt to remove a chair to barricade the doors of the chamber Photograph: Pichi Chuang/Reuters

Taipei parliament fight: Protestors try to open the gates

Outside protesters try to open the front gates ahead of the vote on the nuclear plant referendum Photograph: Chiang Ying-ying/AP

Taipei parliament fight: Tempers flare outside the Taipei parliament

Tempers flare outside Photograph: Chiang Ying-ying/AP

Taiwan’s notable brawls

23 March 2004: A scuffle erupted between the ruling and opposition party members over vote recounts from the presidential election.

7 May 2004: Legislator Zhu Xingyu grabbed legislator William Lai and tried to wrestle him onto a desk and headbutt him, and jabbed him in the stomach, due to disagreements over legislative procedures.

26 October 2004: A food fight took place between the opposition and ruling party during a debate on a military hardware purchase ordinance.

30 May 2006: Then opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Wang Shu-hui snatched a written proposal and shoved it into her mouth to prevent voting on allowing direct transportation links with Mainland China. Ruling party members tried to force her to cough it up by pulling her hair. She later spat it out but tore it up.

8 May 2007: Several members of the ruling DPP and opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party fought over control of the Speaker’s podium, with some throwing punches and spraying water over an alleged delay of the annual budget. At least one person was admitted to hospital.

However this fights have become even uglier.  Legislators lifted up and threw chairs at each other when they brawled over the ruling DPP’s massive $29bn (£22bn) infrastructure spending bill, which the opposition (headed by the KMT) claims benefits cities and counties loyal to the DPP and is aimed at helping the party win  elections in 2017

The fighting continued  in a legislative committee meeting. The opposition KMT legislators wrestled DPP members to the floor and unplugged the cables of loud speakers to prevent the DPP from putting the bill through a committee review to move it towards passage into law.

Opposition parties, a minority in the 113-seat parliament, see physical fights as the only way to stop legislation they oppose, by blocking them from being voted on.

The standoffs can last for hours, even into the middle of the night. Legislators take turns eating or delay meals.

Many staff from local governments, ministries or government agencies have to be there, to see if legislation that affects them might pass, or to be on hand to answer questions in case there is actual discussion and debating, not just brawling.

These people find ways to put up with the chaotic scenes. Some cover their ears, others focus on their smartphones, and a few smart ones find the most comfortable couches in the back and manage to sleep through it all.

It’s become a normal part of Taiwan’s democracy.

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