After mass protests, Georgian lawmakers rejected the second reading of a controversial “foreign agents” bill that critics say resembles a Russian law used by the Kremlin to silence opposition and critics.
After the ruling Georgian Dream party withdrew its support for the bill, parliament rejected the bill in a second reading today by 35 votes to one. He accepted it in the first reading on Tuesday, sparking mass protests that erupted into clashes with police on Tuesday and Wednesday, who used tear gas and water cannons against protesters.
The law stipulated that non-governmental organizations and independent media that receive more than 20% foreign funding must register as “foreign agents”.
The Georgian opposition and the European Union oppose the law, as they see it as a means of restricting the activities of the media and non-governmental organizations, following the example of a similar law passed in Russia in 2012. Many also fear that the law could jeopardize Georgia’s bid for EU membership.
After the protests, the ruling Georgian Dream party announced on Thursday that it would withdraw the bill. Opposition parties, however, announced the continuation of the protests due to the lack of assurances, “that Georgia is firmly on the pro-Western path“.
More than 30,000 people gathered again in the capital Tbilisi on Thursday evening for the third consecutive demonstration. Many speakers called for early parliamentary elections, while some urged the government to adopt reforms to move the country forward on its path to the EU. Several of the government’s measures, such as the law on “foreign agents”, have raised doubts about maintaining pro-Western efforts, and the opposition accuses it of supporting Moscow.
Georgia, a former Soviet republic that was defeated in a brief war with Russia in 2008, is officially seeking to join the European Union and NATO.
Lavrov: The protests are reminiscent of Kyiv’s Maidan Square
The protests in Georgia are reminiscent of the protests that took place in Kyiv’s Maidan Square in 2014, the Russian Foreign Minister said. Sergei Lavrov. He described the events in Georgia as an attempted coup d’état and warned that it was all organized by foreign forces, reports the French news agency AFP.
“There is no doubt that the NGO Registration Act was used as a pretext to launch an attempt to forcefully change the government,” Lavrov said. He compared the events in Georgia to the protests on the Maidan Square in 2014, when months-long demonstrations in support of Ukraine’s rapprochement with the EU removed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych from office, who then took refuge in Russia.
He is convinced that the protests in Georgia were organized from abroad with the aim of creating tension on Russia’s borders. At the same time, he also warned that Russia’s neighboring countries should take into account the possible dangers that threaten them if they find themselves in the zone of influence of the United States, reports the Italian news agency Ansa.
Also the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that for “anti-Russian sentiment” Georgia’s protesters are likely to be supported by the United States. He recalled that she was the president of Georgia Salome Zurabishviliwhich supports the protests, at the time in the US. “She spoke to her people not from Georgia, but from the United States,” he emphasized.