Prime Minister promises adoption of controversial “foreign influence” law on Tuesday

Prime Minister promises adoption of controversial “foreign influence” law on Tuesday
Prime Minister promises adoption of controversial “foreign influence” law on Tuesday

This bill sparked massive opposition rallies. The protesters nicknamed it the Russian law»as it mimics legislation used by the Kremlin to suppress dissenting voices.

The Georgian Prime Minister promised that Parliament would vote on the bill on Tuesday foreign influence »despite mass demonstrations denouncing a text diverting the country from Europe and dragging it towards Moscow. “Parliament will act tomorrow according to the will of the majority of the population and will adopt the law at third reading”declared Irakli Kobakhidze, during a televised speech.

“Faced with unjustified compromises and loss of sovereignty, Georgia will share Ukraine’s fate. No one outside Georgia can prevent us from protecting our national interests”, he insisted, raising fears of a war like the one between kyiv and Moscow. He also assured that the passage of this law would open the door to other texts on a “uncontrolled immigration” or the rights of LGBT+ people, in a still conservative country.

“Russian law”

A thousand demonstrators, mostly young, gathered Monday evening in front of the Georgian parliament against this text strongly criticized by the United States and the European Union to which Georgia, a former Soviet republic, is a candidate for membership. . This project sparked massive opposition rallies, some of which were repressed. The protesters, who have been demonstrating since the beginning of April, have nicknamed it the “Russian law”as it mimics legislation used by the Kremlin to suppress dissenting voices.

“This law means that we will not join Europe”worried Monday to AFP Mariam Kalandadzé, a 22-year-old demonstrator, or “It’s something I’ve always wanted”. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Sunday, some staying all night to prevent MPs from entering parliament.

Climate of tensions

At dawn, AFP saw police violently arresting a group of demonstrators. The rallies are taking place in a climate of tension, with the authorities having warned that they will arrest people blocking parliament. Since the beginning, those under 30 have been the spearhead of the movement. But many assure that their elders are also convinced.

“We always knew we were part of Europe. All generations know it”, declared Artchil Svanidzé, a 26-year-old demonstrator proud to say that his father had remained demonstrating for a good part of the night. Salomé Lobjanidzé, 18 years old, she said “ravaged” by the law. “If it passes, many people who are here today will leave” of the country, she predicted.

The European Union, which granted Georgia official candidate status in December 2023, welcomed “impressive commitment” of Georgians in favor of European integration and urged Tbilisi to investigate reported acts of violence against protesters. “We strongly condemn acts of intimidation, threats and physical attacks”Peter Stano, a spokesperson for the EU diplomatic service, said on Monday.

Transparency» or repression

If adopted, 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 greater “transparency” on their financing.

MP Nikoloz Samkharadze, from the ruling Georgian Dream party, said the project had no “nothing to see” with the criticized Russian law, also reaffirming its attachment to membership of the EU. The law has already been approved during two readings, and requires a third vote. President Salomé Zourabishvili, a pro-European in open conflict with the government, is expected to veto it, but the Georgian Dream claims to have enough votes to override it. The ruling party had already tried to pass this law in 2023, before giving it up due to massive opposition rallies.

Bidzina Ivanishvili, a wealthy businessman seen as Georgia’s shadow leader, sees NGOs as an internal enemy serving foreign powers. This man, prime minister from 2012 to 2013 and today honorary president of the Georgian Dream, is suspected of affinities with Russia, the country where he made his fortune.

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