Georgia Sees Thousands Rally in Support of ‘Foreign Influence’ Bill Advancement


Despite weeks of protests and warnings from Brussels that the controversial “foreign influence” measure would harm Tbilisi’s European aspirations, thousands of Georgians demonstrated once more on Wednesday as the parliament advanced the bill.

The previous evening, thousands of protesters against the legislation were attacked by police using tear gas and rubber bullets, an action that the EU strongly denounced.

In a second reading, lawmakers approved the bill by a vote of 83 to 23. Declaring that it simply aims to increase openness of NGOs’ foreign funding, the ruling Georgian Dream party has stated that it hopes to sign it into law by mid-May.

However, the new bill’s opponents claim it mimics a harsh Russian rule that was intended to stifle dissent.

AFP reported that thousands of protesters once again gathered outside the parliament on Wednesday night, waving the EU and Georgian flags and attempting to barricade the building’s entrances.

The unrest preceded the October legislative elections, which are viewed as a crucial democratic test for the Black Sea nation that aspires to join the EU.

The ruling party has enough votes to override President Salome Zurabishvili’s expected veto of the bill, despite her ongoing disagreements with it.

Should the proposal be passed, it would mandate that independent non-governmental organizations and media outlets that obtain above 20 percent of their money from foreign sources register as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

Huge demonstrations in the streets last year compelled Georgian Dream to renounce plans for comparable actions.

Although Georgia has always sought to strengthen its ties with the West, the Georgian Dream has come under fire for allegedly trying to move the former Soviet nation closer to Russia.

The measure “is not consistent with Georgia’s bid for EU membership,” according to EU chief Charles Michel, and it “will bring Georgia closer to the EU, not farther away.”

The EU granted Georgia official candidate status in December, but before actual membership negotiations could begin, Tbilisi would need to increase journalistic freedom, lessen political polarization, modernize its judicial and electoral systems, and limit the power of oligarchs.

About The Author

Leave a Reply