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Napolitano worried about 'chaos' in parliament

Tension high after scuffles, impeachment petition

31 January, 20:28
Napolitano worried about 'chaos' in parliament (By Paul Virgo) (ANSA) - Rome, January 31 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday said he was "worried" about the turmoil in parliament, where tension is high after a series of scuffles this week and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) presented an impeachment petition against the head of State.

On Wednesday M5S MPs occupied the benches reserved for the government in the House and brawls almost broke out as stewards tried to move them away and take away slogans written in pieces in paper and banners in breach of the rules for the chamber.

A female M5S MP was slapped by a male lawmaker of the centrist Civic Choice party during the protest, sparked by House Speaker Laura Boldrini interrupting a filibuster the M5S were staging against her use of the so-called "guillotine" powers for the first time in history so that a decree could pass before a deadline timed it out. There were more scuffles on Thursday when M5S MPs interrupted the work of two parliamentary committees.

Rome prosecutors, meanwhile, have opened a probe after seven women MPs for Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) said M5S lawmaker Massimo De Rosa had insulted them by saying they only won their seats in parliament because they performed oral sex on people in positions of power.

The bitterness continued Friday, with the opposition Northern League said it was boycotting sessions because one of its MPs was prevented from voting on a commission during the chaos. The M5S walked out as well in protest at a election reform bill.

Some political pundits have said the M5S's actions are an attempt to regain the limelight, which of late has been taken up by the PD's energetic new leader Matteo Renzi.

Renzi has reached a deal with ex-premier and centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi on a new election law to replace the dysfunctional old system that was declared unconstitutional last month and he is working to push through other much-needed institutional reforms to make Italy easier to govern. Comedian-cum-politician Beppe Grillo, the M5S's firebrand leader, on Friday seemed to acknowledge that the aggressive tactics risked backfiring ahead of European elections in May. "Use the weapon of sweetness," he told a meeting of lawmakers from the M5S, who took around a quarter of the vote at last year's general election.

"We mustn't give the impression that we want to leave parliament," added Grillo, whose Internet-based movement aims to destroy the current party system that it says has generated corruption and economic decline.

"The people have understood what we are doing, but we have to stay in there, being politically asphyxiating". Letta expressed solidarity for Napolitano on Friday, saying the impeachment petition was "deeply wrong" and a "provocation".

The M5S has launched impeachment procedures against the head of State for allegedly failing in his role as independent arbiter of the political process in Italy and favoring the established parties.

"I'm not worried about my own personal situation," said Napolitano. "I'm worried about parliament".

The 88-year-old statesman is serving an unprecedented second term as president after reluctantly agreeing to be re-elected last spring to help overcome the political deadlock resulting from inconclusive parliamentary elections in February.