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Georgia: the law on “foreign influence” before Parliament after a huge demonstration

The Georgian Parliament is examining a bill on “foreign influence” on Monday, the day after a demonstration which brought together approximately 20,000 people à Tbilisi against this text judged liberticide, and which the European Union warned that it jeopardized the country's membership.

The project has brought thousands of Georgians into the streets since it was tabled in parliament for the second time in mid-April by the ruling Georgian Dream party. It is denounced for its similarity with a law adopted in Russia, which in a few years made it possible to silence opposition to President Vladimir Putin.

It also sparked concern from Brussels which warned that the adoption of this type of law could destroy Georgia's chances of joining the EU.

Waving European and Georgian flags, around 20,000 people gathered on Republic Square in central Tbilisi on Sunday, according to an AFP journalist on site.

– “March for Europe” –

The demonstrators then began a one-kilometer “march for Europe” on the city's main avenue, to join the Georgian Parliament.

Georgia: the law on “foreign influence” before Parliament after a huge demonstration

Demonstration against a bill on “foreign influence” considered to be inspired by Russia and aimed at silencing the opposition, April 28, 2024 in Tbilisi © AFP – Vano SHLAMOV

“I am here to defend the future of Georgia,” said one of the demonstrators, Lacha Tckheidze, 19 years old. “No to Russia, no to Russian law, yes to Europe!”.

The largely peaceful demonstration experienced a tense moment when demonstrators attempted to cross a police cordon in front of the parliament building to hang the European flag there, noted an AFP journalist.

After midnight, hundreds of anti-police -riots were deployed in this sector of the city, the Ministry of the Interior denouncing the “violent” turn taken by the demonstration.

A first attempt to pass this text failed a year ago after mass demonstrations during which the police used tear gas and water cannons.

Georgia: the law on “foreign influence” before Parliament after a huge demonstration

A protester shouts at the police on April 28, 2024 in Tbilisi © AFP – Vano SHLAMOV

Previous demonstrations in recent days were dispersed by police in the alleys of the city center, with the police beating and questioning demonstrators.

< p>Sunday's demonstration was organized at the call of around a hundred human rights groups and opposition parties, which have until now remained on the sidelines in a fight which mainly mobilized the young people.

“The authorities, who reintroduced the Russian bill, go beyond what the Constitution allows and change the direction given to the country, betraying the invariable will of the people”, wrote the organizers in a press release.

– “Incompatible with the European choice” –

< p>“This law, like this government, is incompatible with Georgia's historic choice to be a member of the European Union,” Nika Gvaramia, the leader of the opposition Akhali party, told AFP in the demonstration.

“Today's sincere protest of thousands of Georgians against Russian law is further proof that Georgians are already European, Georgia is already in Europe”, wrote former Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on the social network X.

Georgia: the law on “foreign influence” before Parliament after a huge demonstration

Protesters against the “foreign influence” bill clash with police on April 28, 2024 in front of the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi. © AFP – Giorgi ARJEVANIDZE

He called on the government to withdraw the bill, “return the country to the constitutional framework” and hold elections.

The ruling party announced that it would hold its own demonstration on Monday, when the text is to be considered for second reading in the Georgian Parliament.

If adopted, this law would in particular force any NGO or media receiving more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register administratively as an “organization defending the interests of a foreign power”.

The Georgian president, the former French diplomat Salomé Zourabichvili, in conflict with the ruling party but whose powers are restricted, assured that she would veto the promulgation of this law if necessary.

A former Soviet republic in the Caucasus, Georgia took a pro-Western turn two decades ago, an orientation long supported by former President Mikheïl Saakashvili today now imprisoned.

The party currently in power, Georgian Dream, is accused by the opposition of insidiously moving the country towards Moscow.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116