ROME - Italy's lower house of parliament is due to take a final vote Monday on a bill to radically overhaul the electoral system aimed at ending decades of political instability.
The National Assembly is expected to debate the Prime Minister Mateo Renzi-backed bill throughout the day before voting on it later on Monday, with opposition lawmakers accusing him of trying to consolidate his grip on power with the legislation.
The bill would guarantee 55 per cent of seats in parliament to the party that gets the most votes in an election, a move that will produce a working majority and end Italy's tradition of unstable coalitions made up of numerous, and often bickering, members.
Renzi has rebuffed charges of a power grab, saying Italy has to move towards something similar to the two-party systems in place in many other democracies and wave goodbye to decades of chronic political instability.
"The electoral law has become a symbol. For years Italians were used to a political class that promised a lot and did nothing," Renzi said over the weekend in televised comments.
"This time around, we said that we will reach our goals and we are doing so. If all goes well, we will be able to say that we have turned a page of utmost importance for our country," he said.
Under his vision of Italy's constitutional future, governments will also not be encumbered by a Senate with extensive powers to block and delay legislation, as is currently the case.
Under constitutional reform also currently going through parliament, the upper chamber will become a much weaker body charged with representing the interests of Italy's regional bodies.
If adopted, the new law is expected to come into force in 2016. It was approved by the upper house Senate in January.
'I'm here to change Italy'
Amid chaotic scenes in parliament, Renzi's centre-left government in late April announced a confidence vote on the proposals, in a move seen as the premier calling the bluff of opponents of the reform within his ruling coalition - if they fail to back him and he loses the confidence vote, the result would be new elections.
"They can tell me 'that's enough, leave,' but I am not here to remain in power for 20 years. I am here to change Italy. If I don't succeed in doing so, I'm going to return home," he said on Sunday.
The reform aims to substantially reduce the powers of the upper house, ending the system of "perfect bicameralism," by which the two branches of parliament have equal weight in confidence votes and in passing and blocking laws.
The plan is to transform the Senate into a small chamber of regional lawmakers with sharply reduced powers, a move which would stop bills getting bogged down in a back-and-forth between the lower and upper chambers.
They would remove the Senate's power to hold votes of no confidence and significantly reduce the number of senators, essentially making the Chamber of Deputies the main legislative branch.