TAIPEI, Taiwan – A ruling party lawmaker threw a shoe at the speaker of Taiwan's legislature on Friday and assorted colleagues pushed and shoved each other, throwing the final day of the winter legislative session into chaos.
The scenes were reminiscent of past Taiwanese legislative brawls, and represented another low point in the island's sometimes stormy transition from dictatorship to democracy.
Friday's trouble erupted when dozens of lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party stormed the speaker's dais to prevent voting on a proposal to change the composition of the Central Election Commission.
The commission is responsible for administering elections on the island of 23 million people and is generally considered nonpartisan.
Opposition Nationalists responded to the DPP's move by rushing forward to protect speaker Wang Jin-pyng, one of the Nationalists' senior members.
DPP lawmaker Wang Shu-huei flung a shoe at the speaker, but it struck the face of a lawmaker next to him.
Another legislator threw the shoe back at Wang Shu-huei and ripped up a DPP political placard. Earlier, a DPP lawmaker grabbed a Nationalist by the jacket collar and tried to push him down against a desk, while dozens of legislators pushed and shoved in the background.
Taiwan's Legislature has a reputation for violent incidents ever since the dismantling of martial law in 1987.
Friday's brawls followed a motion by the opposition — which holds a slim majority at the 219-seat Legislature — asking for the Central Election Commission to be selected according to the parties' electoral strength.
At present, members of the commission are nominated by the government and approved by the president.
The opposition called the commission's impartiality into question amid months of legal wrangling following President Chen Shui-bian's narrow victory in the 2004 presidential election.