ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi won the first of three confidence votes on a fiercely contested new electoral law on Wednesday, defying rebels on his own side who walked out of parliament to signal their opposition.
The motion passed with 352 votes in favor and 207 against, with around 30 members of his own center-left Democratic Party (PD) refusing to cast a ballot.
The bill assigns a heavy majority to the winning party or coalition with the aim of ensuring a clear victor emerges from an election. But it has been furiously attacked by both opposition parties and PD dissidents who say it undermines democracy.
Two more confidence votes are due on Thursday on separate articles in the bill and if the government loses either of these it would have to resign, forcing President Sergio Mattarella to try to appoint a new government or call early elections.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Steve Scherer)