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Fistfight erupts in Italian Parliament as tensions rise over expanding regional autonomy

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Rome, Italy -

Tensions in Italy's lower house erupted into a fistfight, sending an opposition lawmaker to hospital, over a controversial government proposal that opponents say will further impoverish the poor south.

Video of the fight Wednesday shows lawmakers converging on 5-Star Movement lawmaker Leonardo Donno, who opposes the changes, after he tried to hand an Italian flag to regional affairs minister Roberto Calderoli. Calderoli, a firebrand lawmaker from the Lega party with northern roots, drafted the contested expansion of regional autonomy that would mostly benefit regions like Lega strongholds of Veneto and Lombardy.

Italian media reported that Donno was taken to the hospital for evaluation 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,'' Tajani 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 are granted 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 northeast, Aosta in the northwest, and the island of Sardinia.

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