Protests increase after Georgia passes ‘foreign agent’ law

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By Creative Media News

  • Georgian parliament passes controversial “foreign agent” law
  • President may veto; further vote could override veto
  • Protesters fear law may stifle dissent; EU expresses concerns

The Georgian parliament passed a divisive “foreign agent” law, sparking weeks of widespread street protests.

However, the president of Georgia is currently likely to veto the measure; an additional vote in the Tbilisi parliament could override this veto.

Critics claim that some could manipulate the legislation, known as “Russian law,” to violate civil liberties.

Following the vote, protesters attempted to access parliament, but crowds blocked a major intersection.

On Tuesday, 84 votes out of 30 were required for the bill to pass its third and final reading. NGOs and independent media that receive more than 20% of their funding from foreign benefactors would be required to register as “bearing the interests of a foreign power.”

They could also be subject to surveillance by the Ministry of Justice and coercion to divulge sensitive information; failure to comply could result in colossal penalties of up to 25,000 GEL ($9,400; £7,500).

Protesters are apprehensive that the government may exploit the legislation to stifle its adversaries. People have also drawn comparisons to the authoritarian legislation Russia enacted in 2012, which the Kremlin has since used to silence dissenting voices.

Without elaborating, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze warned on Monday that Georgia would “easily share the fate of Ukraine” and forfeit its sovereignty if authorities acquiesced during the third reading of the measure.

Armed with riot gear, protesters heckled police officers stationed at the building’s side entrances. Police apprehended individuals after they attempted to breach the iron barriers near the structure. Physical and verbal confrontations between pro-government and opposition members of parliament contributed to the tense ambiance within the chamber.

Despite this, Georgian Dream has enough members in parliament to win, and the legislation is very likely to become law.

Opposition parties assert that the new law could jeopardize Georgia’s candidate status application to the European Union (EU). The EU has warned that the measure could jeopardize further progress within the bloc.

Roberta Metsola, president of the European Parliament, wrote in a post on X: “We hear you, Tbilisi! We see you! It was further stated that the demonstrating Georgians “desire a European future.”

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In response to the development, the White House issued a warning that it would “reevaluate” its relations with Georgia. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre urged the president of Georgia to veto the legislation.

Nusrat Ghani, the British minister for Europe, described the situation in Georgia as “horrifying.

A former member of Georgia’s National Security Council, Natia Seskuria, said that she expected the anti-law demonstrations to persist.

She further stated that the Georgian people would “continue to rally against this law” and that it posed an “existential threat” to the nation’s survival.

Just five months before a parliamentary election, some protestors believe the bill presents a chance to topple Georgian Dream, the country’s ruling party since 2012.

“We are awaiting the announcement of when we will have the opportunity to select a new government,” a 27-year-old protestor told AFP, declining to provide his last name out of concern for his safety.

The measure has engulfed the Caucasus nation in massive demonstrations for nearly a month. Recent online photographs and videos appeared to depict violent confrontations between police and demonstrators.

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