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Fight erupts in Italian Parliament amid tension over expanding regional autonomy

Tensions over an Italian government proposal that opponents say will further impoverish the poorer south erupted into a fistfight in which opposition politician Leonardo Donno was injured (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse/AP)
Tensions over an Italian government proposal that opponents say will further impoverish the poorer south erupted into a fistfight in which opposition politician Leonardo Donno was injured (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse/AP)

Tensions in the lower house of Italy’s Parliament erupted into a fistfight over a controversial government proposal that opponents say will further impoverish the poor south.

One opposition politician was taken to hospital.

Video of the fight on Wednesday showed politicians converging on Leonardo Donno, of the 5-Star Movement, who opposes the changes, after he tried to hand an Italian flag to regional affairs minister Roberto Calderoli.

Mr Calderoli, a firebrand politician from the Lega party with northern roots, drafted the contested expansion of regional autonomy which would mostly benefit regions like Lega strongholds of Veneto and Lombardy.

Italian media reported that Mr Donno was taken to hospital after being hit in the head and the chest.

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, interviewed on Sky TG24, expressed disappointment at the scene.

“I have no words,” he said. “We need to set another example, not punches to resolve political problems. It’s not braggadocio, it’s not shouting, it’s ideas that need to be explained well to persuade voters.”

The proposal would give additional regions expanded autonomy in specific functions, a move that the opposition says will further increase the north-south divide in Italy.

Currently, five regions have autonomy, which in part reduces the tax revenue due to the central government in Rome.

They range from Trento-South Tyrol in the north, which is comprised of the autonomous provinces of Trento and South Tyrol, to Sicily in the south.

The other three are Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the north-east, Aosta in the north-west, and the island of Sardinia.