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Taiwanese lawmakers brawl over nuclear power

Taiwanese members of parliament have been criticized after fighting and throwing water at each other in a dispute over nuclear power. The scuffle broke out as rival camps tried to seize the chamber’s podium.

Ruling and opposition lawmakers fight on the legislature floor (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Taiwanische Abgeordente prügeln sich im Parlament

Parliamentarians in Taiwan fought openly in parliament on Friday as a debate boiled over about the construction of a new nuclear plant on the island.

The confrontations erupted after lawmakers opposed to nuclear power occupied the parliament's legislative podium late on Thursday. The delegates affiliated to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were attempting to disrupt a Friday vote about whether a referendum about whether to authorize the completion of Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant.

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Brawl in Taiwanese parliament

When Nationalist Party delegates - in favor of the plant - tried to remove them, a scuffle broke out that saw two men fighting in the middle of the assembly floor. As the men were being separated, a scrum developed involving more than a dozen delegates.

Meanwhile, water was thrown from the podium - some of it still in bottles- onto the assembly floor.

‘More chaotic than a bazaar'

The bill was expected to be passed, with the Nationalists having a large majority in the 113-seat assembly. Although many Taiwanese are opposed to nuclear energy, power shortages have been predicted for the island if the plant is not completed.

Criticism for the behavior was voiced on Taiwanese press websites. "The parliament is more chaotic than a bazaar and the lawmakers make fools of themselves. It is shameful," said a commentary in the Taipei-based China Times newspaper website.

"Lawmakers are trash and a group of scumbags,” read a comment on the United Daily News' Facebook page.

Taiwan began the transition from one party martial law in 1987 to become a thriving democracy. However, outbreaks of violence in the legislature are not uncommon.

Tax debate turns into coffee fight

Although fighting has become less frequent in recent years, a debate on capital gains tax in June resulted in a scuffle between delegates, who also threw coffee at each other.

The fourth nuclear plant is about 90 percent completed, with construction having begun in 1997. Work was halted between 2000 and 2008, when the DPP was in power. The state-owned Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) predicts that, if approved in a referendum, the facility would come online in 2015.

The DPP has said it now expects the vote to be delayed until next week.

There have been growing worries about nuclear facilities on the island since the Japanese tsunami of 2011, when the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan went into meltdown after being hit by the huge waves.

rc/tj (AFP, AP)

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