Georgia: new demonstration expected on Sunday against the law on “foreign influence”

Georgia: new demonstration expected on Sunday against the law on “foreign influence”
Georgia: new demonstration expected on Sunday against the law on “foreign influence”

UA new demonstration is expected on Sunday evening in front of the parliament in Tbilisi, Georgia, to protest against the bill on “foreign influence” pushed by the government, the day after a large rally.

On Saturday, there were already several thousand in the city center of the Georgian capital, including many young people, saying “No to Russian law!” », in reference to this text inspired by Russian legislation used by the Kremlin to repress dissident voices.

The text, an initiative of the Georgian Dream party, of the wealthy Bidzina Ivanishvili, is seen as an obstacle on Georgia’s path towards membership in the European Union, which has sharply criticized it.

The bill is due to pass its third reading in parliament very soon and President Salomé Zourabichvili, in conflict with the Georgian Dream, is expected to veto it. The ruling party, however, has enough votes to override it.

If passed, the law will require any NGO or media organization receiving more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register as an “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

The government assures that this measure aims to force organizations to demonstrate more “transparency” about their funding.

Many NGOs in the country have denounced the bill, which Mr. Ivanishvili, 68, defends with conviction against what he judges to be “a pseudo-elite fed by a foreign country”.

The demonstrators, who have already organized several rallies in downtown Tbilisi in recent weeks, brandishing flags of Georgia and the European Union, see the hand of Russia behind the text.

“I am ready to fight until victory,” Anri Papidzé, a 21-year-old student, who came to demonstrate on Saturday, told AFP.

High tensions

The tension between supporters and opponents of the text rose a notch on Saturday, during a large-scale gathering of its detractors, although it was peaceful.

Because if the opposition has shown its unity against the text, the ruling party does not seem ready to back down at this stage, causing yet another political crisis in this small Caucasian country accustomed to turmoil.

Representatives of NGOs have claimed to have been threatened or intimidated in recent days, described as “foreign agents” by the most fervent defenders of the law.

In April, during previous protests, police dispersed crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The law on “foreign influence” was first presented by the Georgian Dream in 2023. But massive protests had already forced the government to shelve it.

His return, at the beginning of April, created a surprise and aroused the anger of many Georgians, particularly the youngest.

These unrest comes a few months before legislative elections in October, considered an important test for democracy in this former Soviet republic.

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