Despite protests | Georgia adopts “foreign influence” law

Despite protests | Georgia adopts “foreign influence” law
Despite protests | Georgia adopts “foreign influence” law

(Tbilisi) The Georgian Parliament adopted the controversial bill on “foreign influence” on Tuesday, despite large-scale demonstrations against a text which, according to its detractors, is modeled on a Russian law and diverts this Caucasian country from Europe to take it towards Moscow.

Posted at 7:11 a.m.

Updated at 8:47 a.m.


France Media Agency

During a third and final reading, deputies voted 84 votes “for” and 30 votes “against”, according to images broadcast on public television.

A sign of the ambient tension, elected officials from the majority and the opposition briefly clashed with fists during the debates. Similar fights had already occurred in recent weeks.

In front of Parliament, hundreds of demonstrators, mainly young people, are still gathered in the middle of the afternoon, supervised by a large police presence, according to an AFP correspondent on site.

“We will demonstrate until this Russian government leaves our country!” “, swore Salomé, a 20-year-old protester, just after the vote.

Critics have dubbed the text “Russian law” because of its similarity to legislation passed in Russia to suppress opposition. The reference is particularly sensitive in Georgia, a country which swings between Russian and European spheres of influence and was invaded by Moscow during a military intervention in 2008.

While the police have, during certain rallies, used rubber bullets and tear gas, the adoption of the bill could lead to new clashes.

“Obstacle” to the EU

In 2023, massive demonstrations forced the ruling “Georgian Dream” party to abandon a first version of this text. But this time, despite more than a month of protests, the majority deputies ignored it.

Shortly before the vote, an EU spokesperson reaffirmed that the adoption of this text would constitute a “serious obstacle” on the country’s path to membership of the European Union.

The law must require any NGO or media outlet 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 its law simply aims to force organizations to demonstrate more “transparency” about their funding. Its detractors see this as proof of a new turn of the screw, capable of condemning the ambition of one day joining the EU.

Georgian President Salomé Zourabichvili, a pro-European and former French diplomat in open conflict with the government, is expected to veto the voted text, but the “Georgian Dream” claims to have enough votes to override it.

Despite tensions, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze promised that Parliament would vote on the law on Tuesday, ignoring calls from the streets and criticism from the United States and the European Union.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov praised “the firm desire of the Georgian leaders to protect their country against any blatant interference in its affairs.”

“Deny” progress

“These people don’t listen to us,” said Mariam Javakhichvili, a 34-year-old demonstrator who came with her young son, in the crowd.

“They are trying to deny the last 30 years” of progress, the path traveled since the fall of the USSR, she said. “I don’t want to let this happen for my son. »

“We were 5 years old when the war with Russia happened, we have bad childhood memories,” says Marta Doborianidze, another 20-year-old demonstrator.

The controversy surrounding this text also highlights the influence of Bidzina Ivanishvili, a wealthy businessman perceived as the shadow leader of Georgia.

Prime Minister from 2012 to 2013 and today honorary president of the “Georgian Dream”, he is suspected of proximity to Russia, the country where he made his fortune.

Even though he claims to want to bring Georgia into the EU, he has recently made hostile statements towards the West and sees NGOs as an enemy from within.

The moment is particularly sensitive in Georgia, where legislative elections will be held in October seen as an important test for current leaders.

For some demonstrators, the ultimate goal is to dislodge the “Georgian Dream”, in place since 2012, from power.



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