After two days of violent protests and clashes with the police, the Georgian Dream party on Thursday announced that it was taking back the controversial draft bill on "foreign agents" that was derided as the "authoritarian shift" for the former Soviet republic's political framework. Georgia is "unconditionally" withdrawing the bill that was "supported without any reservations," Democratic Georgia, which was established in 2012, noted in an official statement.
On the lines of the 2012 notorious Russian Duma legislation, the bill classified non-governmental organizations and the media as "foreign agents" should they be funded by approximately 20% or more from investors abroad. Demonstrators, however, flooded the streets calling to repeal the bill arguing that it was part of a broader clampdown on the government critics, who they insisted, will be harassed and stifled for anti-government defiant voices. Scores of protesters were arbitrarily detained by the Georgian Police.
We welcome announcement by the ruling party to withdraw draft legislation on “foreign influence”. We encourage all political leaders in GE 🇬🇪 to resume pro-EU 🇪🇺reforms, in an inclusive & constructive way and in line with the 12 priorities for Georgia to achieve candidate status pic.twitter.com/pKSFIOQv88— EU Delegation Georgia 🇪🇺 (@EUinGeorgia) March 9, 2023
Good news in 🇬🇪Georgia: the authorities decided to unconditionally withdraw both Russia-inspired "foreign agent" bills following massive protests and domestic and international outcry! For background https://t.co/0eim5h5CqM pic.twitter.com/n92LT3z0Hd— Giorgi Gogia (@Giorgi_Gogia) March 9, 2023
So #Georgia clears a draft (Isn't a law yet) requiring people & organizations like Amnesty, HRW, Peta etc to register with Ministry of Justice if their foreign funding exceeds 20% of total income & all hell broke loose.— i (@whyinsider) March 8, 2023
Guess who is behind these protests?pic.twitter.com/FvD2OXuSzD
Despite the draconian bill's abrupt withdrawal on March 9, Georgia’s opposition forces declared that it plans to carry on with protests in the capital of Tbilisi. A spokesperson for the Girchi - More Freedom opposition party Tsotne Koberidze, announced at a press briefing that the demonstrations will continue, as "there are many young people who don’t trust the Georgian Dream [ruling party]."
After the initial approval on Tuesday, tens of thousands of protesters clashed with the security officials outside the parliament building, hurling flammable Molotov cocktails and chanting anti-Russian slogans. Angry Georgians launched petrol bombs, pelted stones and hit the plastic bottles at the officers who were deployed to instate law and order. The protests were quelled by the security officers that used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons on the crowd, most of whom were waving the European Union flags.
Protesters gather at a barricade with a burning police car, not far from the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia. Credit: AP
Nothing obvious about this protest in Georgia is there? I thought it was over the foreign agents law, but look at all the hyper Lib Ukro shills. Obvious Maidan play once again and barely even veiled. pic.twitter.com/e0oJgI3SOU— GraphicW (@GraphicW5) March 9, 2023
Droa party representative Giga Lemonjala, who led the demonstrations against the ruling party, demanded that the bill must be withdrawn immediately in public interest and democracy. The Georgian government, however, argued that the legislation was drafted similarly to the US foreign agents laws that have been around since the 1930s. Critics believe that the law would be used to organize the crackdown on the Georgian Orthodox Church, the most powerful institution within the Caucasus nation.
[Images Credit: Associated Press]