Georgia – flag – illustration photo.
Tbilisi – Lawmakers of Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream party withdrew the so-called law on foreign agents from parliament after two days of protests by the opposition and its supporters. It would require all organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” under the threat of heavy fines. The Ministry of Justice would then have control over the registered organizations. Thousands of people demonstrated against the norm, fearing the country's authoritarian direction following the example of Russia, where a similar law has been in force for over ten years.
According to Reuters, the Georgian Dream party said in a statement that it would “unconditionally withdraw the draft law that it wholeheartedly supported”, allegedly due to the need to limit “confrontation in society”.
The bill has been protested in the streets of Tbilisi since Tuesday. According to the newspaper Kommersant, the security forces dispersed the demonstrators on the central Rustaveli Street, where, among other things, the parliament is located, around seven in the morning local time (4:00 CET). According to the Rustavi 2 station, the protesters threw Molotov cocktails and continued to build barricades or set trash cans on fire. The police arrested an unspecified number of people at night, on Wednesday evening the media reported on 66 arrests.
The incriminating law was approved by the government majority in the first reading on Tuesday. Critics of Georgian Dream say the party is too close to Russia and that the Transcaucasian country has drifted towards authoritarianism in recent years. After years of conflict with Russia over the Moscow-backed separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgian society is strongly anti-Moscow, which was also evident in demonstrations where some protesters chanted the slogan: “No to Russian law!”
On social media a videoon which protesters led by a woman with a flag of the European Union resist a water cannon quickly spread on the networks since Tuesday. Georgia is not a member of the EU, but applied for membership last March. The European Council stated in June that it is ready to grant Georgia the status of a candidate country.