With Italy at the centre of Europe’s debt crisis, the strain is starting to show among its politicians who have been at each other’s throats – quite literally.
There were extraordinary scenes in parliament where opposition and government members came to blows in a row over pensions. The sitting was duly suspended.
Tempers flared amid demands from the Northern League, within the ruling centre-right coalition, for parliamentary speaker Gianfranco Fini to resign.
Why? Because of sarcastic remarks he made on television, saying the wife of the Northern League’s leader Umberto Bossi had retired at 39.
Such comments are ultra-sensitive as pension reform has been at the heart of coalition in-fighting between Bossi and premier Silvio Berlusconi.
The pair reached a last-minute pre-summit deal. Yet it provides for only a slight acceleration in raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, as demanded by Italy’s European partners.
Berlusconi’s office, meanwhile, has denied he has made a secret agreement with Bossi to step down as prime minister at the end of the year.