A fight erupts in the Italian parliament as tensions rise over the expansion of regional autonomy

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ROME (AP) — Tensions in Italy’s lower house have boiled over into a fistfight, with an opposition lawmaker sent to hospital over a controversial government proposal that opponents say will further impoverish the poor south.

Video of Wednesday’s clash shows lawmakers clashing with Five Star Movement MP Leonardo Donno, who opposes the changes, after he tried to hand an Italian flag to Regional Affairs Minister Roberto Calderoli. Calderoli, a Lega party lawmaker with northern roots, drafted the controversial expansion of regional autonomy, which would mainly benefit regions such as Lega strongholds Veneto and Lombardy.

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

Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajaniinterviewed on Sky TG24, expressed his disappointment on the spot.

“I have no words,” Tajani said. “We need to set a different example, not just slap punches to solve political problems. It’s not boasting, it’s not shouting, it’s ideas that need to be properly explained to convince voters.”

The proposal would give additional regions more autonomy in specific functions, a move the opposition says will further widen Italy’s north-south divide.

Currently, five regions are granted autonomy, which will partially reduce tax revenues owed to the central government in Rome. They range from Trento-South Tyrol in the north, which consists 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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