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Italian parliament votes for overhaul to end 'revolving door' politics

Italy's parliament has approved a radical new election law aimed at ending to the country's notorious history of revolving-door governments. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won the vote with a comfortable majority.

Parliamentarians in Rome voted on Monday in favor of a radical new election law designed to ensure that elections produce governments with working majorities.

The piece of legislation, described by Renzi as central to his reform agenda, was approved by the National Assembly with 334 votes in favor and only 61 against. The prime minister tweeted his satisfaction with the outcome soon afterwards.

"Commitment honoured, promise respected," Renzi tweeted after the vote. "Italy need those who don't always say no. Forwards, with humility and courage," he said.

A comfortable victory had been expected after Renzi won three related confidence votes on different sections of the bill last week.

Stability for innovation

According to the bill, the party that gets the most votes in an election would benefit from a winner's premium. This would see the top party - or alliance of parties - automatically take 340 of the National Assembly's 630 seats.

Earlier, Renzi told an audience of Milan stock market traders that the change would ensure stability over five-year electoral periods. Such political stability, he maintained, was "a precondition of economic innovation."

However, some political rivals have accused the youthful Renzi of seeking to consolidate his grip on power.

Funeral of democracy?

Opposition lawmakers accused the government of spearheading a "fascist" reform, with some of them throwing chrysanthemums - a flower associated with death - to mourn "the funeral of democracy."

The new law, called the "Italicum," is not set to come into force until next year and is to be complemented by a separate reform to reduce the role of the upper Senate.

Center-right leader and former premier Silvio Berlusconi has negotiated the reform with Renzi in previous readings but withdrew his support earlier this year when Renzi refused to propose a commonly-agreed candidate as president.

rc/jil (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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