Flying fists and brawling lawmakers: when politics gets physical

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Flying fists and brawling lawmakers: when politics gets physical


In the world of politics, heated debates on controversial issues can sometimes end in fist fights

MANILA, Philippines – Tempers can rise in the world of politics, to the point that politicians in their dignified suits can end up in an all-out brawl.

On Tuesday, January 17, Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Antonio Trillanes IV almost got physical after their heated exchange in the Senate hall over a bribery scandal in the Bureau of Immigration.

'WAR.' Senators try to pacify Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Juan Miguel Zubiri who were caught in a heated word war on the Senate floor. Photo by Jun Aniceta

The two Philippine senators are just among several lawmakers from around the world who got into word wars over controversial issues. In some cases, these political arguments even ended up in violence.

Here’s a rundown of some recent incidents of politicians fighting it out in public.

BRAWL AT PARLIAMENT. Ruling Justice and Development Party and main opposition Republican People's Party lawmakers scuffle at the parliament in Ankara during deliberations over a controversial 18-article bill to change the constitution to create an executive presidency January 11, 2017. AFP photo

Turkey, January 2017

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey saw a massive brawl during a debate over the expansion of executive powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Tension escalated between the members of the ruling AKP and opposition CHP parties – and not long after, they were seen shoving each other and exchanging punches.

The debate was about a constitutional reform bill that would grant Erdogan the power to hire and fire government ministers. It would also take back the leadership of their ruling party.

Hong Kong, November 2016

Hong Kong’s legislature erupted in chaos when two pro-independence lawmakers barged into the Legislative Council chamber despite being temporarily banned from attending meetings.

Baggio Leung, 30, and Yau Wai-ching, 25, were banned by the president of their legislative council after weeks of pressure from pro-Beijing loyalists.

The two were regarded as being among a new breed of more radical activists in Hong Kong, where the issue of independence had once been considered a taboo topic.

SQUABBLE. Other lawmakers try to keep apart Surigao Representative Prospero Pichay (right) and Representative Ace Barbers (left). Sourced photo

Philippines, October 2016

Before Senators Zubiri and Trillanes, two other lawmakers nearly got into a scuffle in the halls of Congress. Surigao del Sur First District Representative Prospero Pichay Jr and Surigao del Norte Second District Representative Robert “Ace” Barbers got into a heated argument during a House hearing on constitutional amendments in October last year.

While the hearing was suspended, the two congressmen were heard hurling expletives and even tried to push each other, before their colleagues quickly stood between them and managed to avert what could have been a nasty brawl. Pichay later filed an ethics complaint against Barbers.

Ukraine, September 2016

Two rival Ukranian politicians were caught fighting on camera after a heated television debate. Volodymyr Parasyuk, an active critic of Ukranian President Victor Yanukovych, and Oleksandr Vilkul, former deputy prime minister, were seen engaging in a fist fight in a studio corridor of 112 TV channel.

Parasyuk had also been involved in a violent incident in November 2015, after he kicked a security chief in the head during an anti-corruption meeting. Several bodyguards had to stop the brawl. Parasyuk later said his actions were prompted by an “emotional reaction.”

Georgia, September 2016

A live television debate on Iberia TV ended in a water fight. The Union of Industrialists candidate Zaza Agladze and his opponent Irakli Glonti from the State for the People bloc threw glasses of water and punches at each other. The host of the show, shocked at the sudden turn of events, tried to stop the two but failed.

The incident came amid tensions over the upcoming parliamentary elections in October.

SCUFFLE. Deputies of the All-Ukrainian Union 'Svoboda' party attack the head of the Communist parliamentary faction Petro Symonenko (C) as they attempt to remove him from the hall during a Ukrainian parliament sitting in Kiev on July 23, 2014. Photo by Anatolii Stepanov/AFP

Ukraine, April 2014

Deputies from two opposing parties clashed during a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine. The tension started when Petro Symonenko, a communist leader, accused nationalists of intimidating, arresting, and fighting people with a different point of view.

While Symonenko appeared unhurt after the brawl, one deputy leader was seen with scratches on his face.

India, February 2014

Members of the Indian parliament used pepper spray and broken glass against each other during a parliament session, where the politicians were discussing the controversial Telangana bill that would allow the creation of India’s 29th state.

Taiwan, August 2013

Taiwanese lawmakers from opposing parties fought each other before a vote that would allow a national referendum on whether to complete the construction of the 4th power plant in the country.

Legislators from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) fought with the ruling Nationalist party at the Legislative Yuan or parliament in Taipei. The worst part of the brawl was when Chiu Chih-Wei, a DPP legislator, ended on the floor in a scuffle with Lin Hung-Chih from the Nationalist party. 

Hong Kong, February 2013

Pro-democracy lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, also known as “Long Hair”, threw a cushion at Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary John Tsang during the annual budget report at the Legislative Council.

Kwok-hung had been demanding a universal retirement protection scheme due to Hong Kong’s “fast-aging population, widening income disparity, and an inadequate Mandatory Provident Fund scheme.”

Will Filipino lawmakers degenerate into fighting legislators like some of their foreign counterparts? For shame, if they do. –  Addie Pobre and Cathrine Gonzales/

Addie Pobre and Cathrine Gonzales are Rappler interns studying journalism at Polytechnic University of the Philippines. 

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