Rome, October 12 - A crunch secret vote loomed for a contested election-law bill Thursday evening after it earlier passed the last of three confidence votes called to push it through the Lower House. The bill, which aims to encourage parties to form coalitions, is supported by three of the biggest groups in parliament: ex-premier Matteo Renzi and Premier Paolo Gentiloni's Democratic Party (PD), ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, and Matteo Salvini's anti-euro, anti-migrant opposition Northern League (LN). It is also backed by the junior government partner, the small centre-right Popular Alternative (AP). Some of the PD and FI MPs, in particular, are expected to buck the party line in the secrecy oft he voting booth, after being forced to vote in favour by the open confidence votes. According to an informal tally by the Italian media, some 120 so-called 'snipers' would be enough to shoot down the bill, but currently only about 90 of them have tipped their hand. The bill will then move to the Senate where the numbers are even tighter. The bill is being hotly contested by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), which says it has been designed to scupper their chances of winning the next general election, expected before spring. It is also opposed by small leftwing groups such as the MDP, a splinter of the PD that broke off after long-running disagreements with Renzi. Like the M5S, they see it as an affront to democracy - both in the way it is being rammed through parliament and because it does not allow voters to pick their MPs. The controversial bill passed the third of three confidence votes it was put to in the Lower House early on Thursday. Article 3 of the so-called Rosatellum 2.0 bill was approved with 309 votes in favour, 87 against and six abstentions. There is tension within the ruling PD and former president Giorgio Napolitano criticised the confidence move, lamenting the limitations it put on the parliamentary debate and lawmakers' ability for shape the bill. Ex-premier Massimo D'Alema, a senior member of the MDP, blasted the bill as "an unacceptable law, the (PD) leaders are wearing out democracy". Italy is set to have a general election early next year. Those who attack the PD weaken the only "bulwark against populism," PD leader Matteo Renzi said Wednesday, citing as populists the M5S, Berlusconi and the LN. On the PD-led government's controversial use of confidence votes to push through an election-law bill, ex-premier and PDc leader Renzi recalled that postwar Christian Democrat statesman Alcide De Gasperi used confidence votes for key policies. The Rosatellum 2, nicknamed after Democratic Party (PD) Lower House whip Ettore Rosato, would harmonise the present differing laws for the House and the Senate. It would introduce a system that is two-thirds proportional representation and one-third first-past-the-post system aimed at favouring the emergence of a winner. There are fears the next general election could be inconclusive, even with the new law that ups the pressure on parties to team up into coalitions. Another controversial element of the bill, highlighted by the M5S and others, are new rules for getting elected abroad which would allegedly favour the election of former Berlusconi heavyweight and leader of the small centrist ALA group, Denis Verdini, who would otherwise be banned because of criminal convictions.
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