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The Best Political Punch-Ups
May 20, 2013
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Henry Kissinger is credited with the quote "90 per cent of politicians give the other ten per cent a bad reputation". Whether he actually said it is immaterial, as it pretty much sums up how a lot of people feel about politicians.

A poll done six months ago by the Environics Institute found that Canadians are losing trust in our political system.

Just 17 per cent of those surveyed said they trust Parliament; 10 per cent trust political parties; and only 16 per cent said they put "a lot of trust" in the Prime Minister.

It seems many Canadians believe Question Period has become more about partisan bickering than meaningful debate, and have grown tired of it.

Perhaps we need a bit more passion in our politics, or like these examples, a good old-fashioned parliamentary punch-up.

Venezuela

A few weeks ago, a dust-up broke out in Venezuela's parliament, after a hotly contested election result.

According to the BBC, a measure was passed denying MPs the right to speak until they recognized Nicolas Maduro as president to replace the late Hugo Chavez.

Not surprisingly, that didn't go over well with the opposition and off came the figurative gloves - with both sides blaming the other for the fisticuffs.

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One of the opposition MPs, Julio Borges (pictured), later appeared on local TV looking a little worse for wear.

"They can beat us, jail us, kill us, but we will not sell out our principles" Borges was quoted as saying.

Maduro, by the way, is now president despite demands for a recount.

South Korea

Physical confrontations aren't that unusual in South Korea's parliament.

But this one from 2008 was like something out of a WWE "no holds barred" pay-per view event. Opposition lawmakers used sledgehammers to smash their way into a committee room to stop the ruling party from introducing a bill to ratify a free trade deal with the U.S.

South_Korea_Brawl.jpg

A year later, they went at it again over a bill to ease restrictions on the ownership of TV networks - more of a Battle Royal if you will.

Hundreds of politicians ended up brawling and wrestling, after opposition members stacked furniture to prevent the ruling party from entering the National Assembly's main hall.

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And this fight crossed gender lines too: according to reports, "women lawmakers from the rival parties joined in the melee, grabbing each other by the neck".

Alabama

In 2007, in the Alabama State Senate, a Republican punched a Democrat in the head before they were pulled apart.

69-year-old Charles Bishop said he punched Lowell Barron, 65, after Barron called him a "son of a bitch."

Barron denied saying that to Bishop. He said Bishop swore at him and he was trying to get away when he got nailed by a right hand.

Bishop said he responded the way he was taught. "I was raised in the woods of Arkansas and people don't say that about your mom."

Ukraine

In a country where 6'7 WBC heavyweight boxing champ Vitali Klitschko heads a major political party, you'd think he might be at the centre of things.

Nope, although a few dozen smaller, more portly Ukranian lawmakers were. This donnybrook broke out this past March over the language used in a speech.

And we don't mean offensive words, we mean an actual language.

According to the Telegraph, Oleksandr Yefremov, leader of the ruling Party of Regions faction, delivered a speech in Russian.

That ticked off the nationalist Svoboda party, whose members shouted "Ukrainian!" as he spoke. Next thing you know, it was on - pushing, shoving, punching and perhaps even some hair pulling (around the :30 mark).

As it all unfolded, the Chair of the Ukrainian parliament said "I am appealing to you to stop this. I invite the party leaders to meet with me for a 30 minute break."

Bolivia

Several years ago, in Bolivia, trouble broke out over a move by President Evo Morales to put four judges on trial for corruption.

As the BBC reported, Morales said the judges were interfering in his plans to help Bolivia's poor indeginous people - accusing them of working with right wing politicians to block his agenda.

The opposition said putting the judges on trial would be an attack on democracy and accused Morales of trying to run a dictatorship.

During the brouhaha, politicians scaled tables and threw furniture, as fists and cups of water flew.

India

The world's largest democracy is not immune from shenanigans generally seen around last call.

In 2009, a fight broke out in the legislative assembly of Maharashtra, a state in west-central India, after a politician took the oath of office in Hindi instead of the official language Marathi.

As Abu Asim Azmi took the oath, four members of another party rushed up, tried to grabbed the microphone, and "manhandled" him.

According to a Times of India report, the incident "tarnished Maharashtra's credentials as a progressive state committed to moderate politics."

Azmi said he had told the speaker he "would take the oath in Hindi" because he couldn't speak Marathi - adding "I have a high respect for Marathi and Marathi people. Marathi is like my mother."

The four lawmakers who went after Azmi were suspended for four years.

Taiwan

Nothing like international trade pacts to bring out the worst in elected officials. Case in point, Taiwan's parliament in 2010.

According to a Daily Mail report, a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party fell off a podium while tangling with a member of the ruling Nationalist Party.

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Things started innocently enough, with some paper being thrown. Then, out came the fists. A recess had to be called and two lawmakers were taken to hospital.

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