Reform pressure tells in Italy as MPs brawl
ITALIAN MPs exchanged blows in parliament yesterday as tensions over a tough economic reform programme came to a head.
At least two MPs from the Northern League and a member of the ruling centre-right coalition came to blows with members from the opposition FLI party of speaker Gianfranco Fini.
Two MPs grabbed each other by the throat as others rushed to separate them.
The parliamentary sitting was suspended for several minutes after the fight, which broke out because of sarcastic remarks on television by Mr Fini alleging that the wife of League leader Umberto Bossi had retired at 39.
Mr Bossi has objected to plans to reform Italy's generous pension system, crippling the government's attempts to convince the EU that it is serious about embarking on structural reforms to kickstart the moribund economy.
In a television interview, Mr Fini claimed that Mr Bossi's opposition to a pensions overhaul was linked to the fact that his wife had retired on a generous state pension at 39 from her job as a teacher.
The remark sparked fisticuffs between MPs from the two opposing parties. The punch-up exposed the deep rifts within Italy over efforts to stimulate growth and tackle the country's €1.8 trillion public debt, as Silvio Berlusconi prepared to face a crucial EU summit in Brussels.
Mr Berlusconi travelled to Brussels to present a 15-page "letter of intent". Analysts said the proposals were unlikely to be concrete enough to satisfy eurozone leaders and markets.