ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government won an initial confidence vote in the upper house of parliament on Wednesday on a new electoral law that looks unlikely to produce a clear-cut result at national elections due by next May.
Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has called five confidence motions in the upper house Senate on the reform and hopes to get the package approved by Thursday, despite furious opposition from the anti-system 5-Star Movement and small leftist groups.
The initial motion was approved by 150 votes to 61. Around 100 senators did not take part in the vote. The bill has already passed through the lower house.
The proposed voting system favors parties that form pre-election coalitions and is backed by the largest parties within Italy's main centre-left and centre-right blocs. It will penalize groups that want to go-it-alone, such as the 5-Star.
However, opinion polls say the system, which is a mix of proportional representation and first-past-the-post, will not throw up an obvious winner, with the vote split three-ways between the left, right and 5-Star.
Five-Star has denounced the reform as "an institutional coup d'etat" and senators from the group closed their eyes, or put on a blindfold as they cast their 'no' vote in the Senate.
The use of multiple confidence motions first in the lower house and now in the Senate has allowed the ruling centre-left coalition to truncate discussion on the bill and sidestep dozens of planned secret votes on various amendments.
The government says the law is needed to harmonize the electoral system for the upper and lower houses and reduce the risk of different majorities materializing in the two chambers. Previous attempts at reform this past year have all failed.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Steve Scherer)