Italians will vote in a referendum next month on whether to limit the role of the country’s upper house of parliament, the Senate.
The proposed reforms would concentrate power in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says the measures would result in a stronger and more stable government. He has even tied the vote to his own political future, saying if his reforms are rejected, he would resign.
But all polls carried out since October 21 have put the no camp in the lead, and by a widening margin, forcing Renzi to backtrack.
Most opposion parties and even some of Renzi’s own Democratic Party are supporting a no vote, arguing the reforms would do away with a balanced parliament.
Some analysts say they could actually create more instability, leading to further social turmoil and market volatility across Europe.
How the reforms would change Italy’s Senate
The proposals would transform the upper house of parliament from a chamber of 315 directly elected politicians to a smaller Senate of Regions with just 100 seats.
Senators would be chosen from the 74 regional councillors and 21 mayors.
The five senators usually nominated by the president would serve for just seven years rather than for life.
Under the current system, a bill has to be approved by both chambers before becoming law.
If the reforms are approved, the Chamber of Deputies would have the final say on everyday bills.
The Senate would maintain its veto on constitutional matters and would examine bills if one third of its members wish to do so.
Renzi’s uncertain political future
If the prime minister loses the December 4 referendum, political paralysis beckons, with Italy potentially heading into elections with different voting rules applying for the two chambers.