TAIPEI, Taiwan - There's plenty of dysfunction to go around in the American political system right now, but it appears to be nothing compared to the complete chaos happening in the Taiwanese Parliament.
Massive brawls have broken out during the last two sessions over a controversial infrastructure bill that opponents call a political ploy to attract voters ahead of the 2018 elections. The Democratic Progressive Party has a massive majority, controlling 68 of the body's 113 seats. Last week it introduced a $29 billion infrastructure bill that opposition parties, led by the conservative Kuomintang Party, believe mostly benefits areas that voted for the DPP in 2016.
However, instead of debating the bill, opponents launched a physical counter-offensive by throwing water balloons, then punches and eventually chairs. Others, who tried to stay away from the more violent clashes disrupted the proceedings by unplugging microphones and doing whatever possible to make it impossible to move forward on the legislation. The fighting continued on Tuesday during a legislative meeting when opposition members blocked the delivery of a budget report, leading to more fighting and chair throwing.
While it may seem extreme to those outside the country, fighting on the floor of the Taiwanese Parliament is actually pretty common. Members of opposition parties believe it's one of the few ways they can stand up to a majority party and its policy priorities. However, it's nearly impossible for opposition members to stop legislation from a majority party from becoming law. The best they can hope for is disrupting proceedings enough to delay passage.
However, tempers have been especially hot lately because Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has seen her approval rating plummet by 30 percent since she took office last May. Opposition leaders believe the polls indicate an opportunity to take back power from the DPP and the image of themselves doing everything they can to stop the majority power resonates with Taiwanese voters.