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Letta says M5S is pushing democracy beyond the limits

Premier calls on opposition to respect parliament's rules

31 January, 16:42
Letta says M5S is pushing democracy beyond the limits (ANSA) - Rome, January 31 - Premier Enrico Letta on Friday condemned the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) for allegedly behaving in an undemocratic fashion and abusing the rules of parliament. Letta spoke amidst a week of turmoil in the Italian parliament where, on Friday, two opposition parties walked out of the Lower House to show their displeasure with a vote on a new election law.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), led by comedian Beppe Grillo, accused the bill's architects from the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and the center-right Forza Italia (FI) of trying to squeeze it out of parliament. Differences over this bill and other measures were behind pushing and shoving on several occasions this week in parliament.

Following a meeting of cabinet ministers, Letta said the antics over the week were disrespectful towards Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini while trampling over democratic institutions and processes.

"We condemn the severe attacks on president Boldrini, which in our opinion indicates a willingness to take an undemocratic route," said Letta.

"The government reacts sharply (to the M5S pushing the limits of acceptable parliamentary behaviour)," he said.

On Friday the opposition Northern League said it was boycotting sessions because one of its MPs was prevented from voting during the chaos. The head of the League repeated oft-made demands from the opposition that Boldrini step down. "Boldrini is inadequate. Either she steps down or there will be chaos," said Matteo Salvini, League secretary.

The M5S walked out as well in protest of the election reform bill. On Wednesday, the M5S MPs were furious that Boldrini interrupted a filibuster they were staging by using her so-called "guillotine" powers for the first time in history so that a decree could pass before a deadline timed it out. Amidst scuffles that day inside the chamber, one female politician was slapped by a male colleague as M5S MPs occupied the benches reserved for the government in the House.

A lawmaker of the centrist Civic Choice on Thursday apologised for slapping a female M5S member during the disturbance one day earlier.

Stefano Dambruoso, an officer called a quaestor responsible for keeping order in the Lower House of parliament, said his allegedly unintentional gesture had been aimed at preventing M5S members from attacking Boldrini.

As well, seven members of the Democratic Party (PD) filed a complaint against Massimo De Rosa, member of the M5S, for throwing out sexual insults.

He denied that, and said he had simply suggested that some people got into parliament only because they had performed oral sexual favours.

On Thursday, Boldrini denounced very serious sexist insults being thrown about.

Such behavior was "intolerable and incompatible" with parliamentary debate, Boldrini said, to applause from some politicians.