Rome, October 13 - The Lower House approved a controversial bill for a new election law late on Thursday. The bill passed a secret ballot with 375 votes in favour, 215 against, despite dozens of 'turncoat' lawmakers belonging to groups backing the bill failing to toe the party line. It now moves to the Senate. The bill is 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 ruling Democratic Party (PD) that broke off after long-running disagreements with its leader, ex-premier Matteo Renzi. Opponents are also furious that three confidence votes were used to get the bill through the Lower House. The confidence tool, which limits lawmaker's ability to change a bill or hold it up, may be used again in the Upper House. The bill, which aims to encourage parties to form coalitions, is supported by three of the biggest groups in parliament: Renzi and Premier Paolo Gentiloni's PD, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party, and Matteo Salvini's Euroskeptic, anti-migrant opposition Northern League (LN). It is also backed by the junior government partner, the small centre-right Popular Alternative (AP).
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