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Jail overcrowding law keeps tension high in parliament

Eurosceptics cause ruckus at home and abroad

05 February, 20:13
Jail overcrowding law keeps tension high in parliament (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Rome, February 5 - Tensions were high in parliament Wednesday after Northern League MP Gianluca Buonanno was expelled from the House when he accused the ruling Democratic Party (PD) of being in league with the mafia because of a planned amnesty that would ease prison overcrowding by letting out thousands of non-serious offenders.

"(The PD are) accomplices of the mafia," read a placard waved by the member of the anti-immigrant and anti-euro party against the so-called 'empty out jails' decree. On Tuesday Buonanno waved handcuffs against the center-left PD, who rule with the New Centre Right. The League member recently blacked up to deliver an anti-immigrant rant to the House. The populist regionalist party has a history of similar stunts. Its head, Matteo Salvini, on Wednesday confirmed his party's call for Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to resign, despite shaking hands with the head of State moments earlier. "From a personal point of view, no hard feelings. But from a political point of view we are on different planets," Salvini said. But "whoever continues to defend the indefensible - this Europe and this euro - cannot represent Italian citizens," Salvini declared. "The problem is whoever continues to defend a Europe that is massacring us, and a euro that is a criminal coin. Courtesy and politeness are one thing. The fact that this Europe is killing our future is another," Salvini added. Napolitano called for the end of austerity in the EU in a keynote address at the European Parliament on Tuesday, while stressing that there was no turning back on the process of European integration, rankling Salvini.

The head of State was greeted in Strasbourg with a protest by League MEPs, who slammed Napolitano for defending the European single currency, saying it had "destroyed" jobs and wages. The League, led by Salvini, waved banners saying "no euro" and "euro kills" during Napolitano's address.

Their opposition to the president has grown amid the current and previous administration, both of which were heavily influenced by Napolitano during their formation amid economic and political instability, at the expense of the traditional democratic process. Napolitano on Wednesday told Italian MEPs he did not invent the current or the previous government on a whim, but that both were formed by agreement from all political sides as called for by the law of the land. Amid government gridlock following inconclusive elections, the 88-year-old statesman assumed an unprecedented second term in office in order to preside over the birth of Premier Enrico Letta's left-right coalition government in April, much as he did for the previous technocrat administration of Mario Monti. Letta is staunchly pro-EU, and Monti implemented highly unpopular austerity measures which brought Italy back from the brink of a Greek-style financial meltdown.

The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), led by firebrand comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, has lately taken a leaf out of the League's book. It sparked a brawl in the House last week, blocking lawmakers' work, and aimed a string of sexist insults including rape threats at Speaker Laura Boldrini.