Victory for protesters in Georgia as government halts plan to introduce authoritarian Putin-like laws after two days of demonstrations
- Protesters said the proposed bill was inspired by an authoritarian Russian law.
- The ruling Georgian Dream party said it would “unconditionally withdraw the bill”.
Georgia’s ruling party said on Thursday it would drop a controversial bill after two nights of angry protests amid criticism that it was inspired by authoritarian Russian law.
The ruling Georgian Dream party said in a statement that it would “unconditionally withdraw the bill that we support without any reservations.” He cited the need to reduce ‘confrontation’ in society.
The bill would have required Georgian organizations that receive more than 20 per cent of their funding from abroad to register as ‘foreign agents’ or face fines.
The ruling Georgian Dream party had previously said the law was needed to expose critics of the Georgian Orthodox Church, one of the country’s most powerful institutions.
Opponents of the bill, including Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, who said she would veto it if it passed her desk, compared it to a 2012 Russian law, which has been used to suppress dissent.
A man waves a Georgian national flag in front of a burning barricade as other protesters stand behind not far from the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi early Thursday morning.
Police in riot gear confront protesters in Tbilisi on Wednesday night.
The 2012 law signed by Putin clamped down on foreign-funded civil rights groups, an overt move by the Kremlin to suppress dissent abroad.
But despite comparisons to laws similar to Putin’s, the Georgian government claims the legislation is based on US foreign agent laws, in place since the 1930s.
The abandonment of the Georgia bill is also a significant blow to Vladimir Putin, who continues to view the former Soviet state as within the Kremlin’s sphere of influence.
The bill angered supporters of Georgian membership in the European Union, after EU officials condemned the bill, saying it would complicate Georgia’s path to join the bloc.
Last year, the European Union refused to grant Georgia candidate status along with Moldova and Ukraine, citing stalled political and judicial reforms.
Parliament gave its initial approval on Tuesday, but tens of thousands of protesters gathered outside the parliament in the capital Tibilisi.
A succession protest took place again on Wednesday, in which some demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, stones and plastic bottles at the police.
A police car burns near the remains of the barricade after clashes between protesters and police on a street near the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi early Thursday.
Protesters wave the Georgian, Ukrainian and European flags during a rally called by the Georgian opposition and civil society groups on Wednesday night.
During the protests, authorities said at least one window was broken in the parliament building and a police car overturned.
Police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the crowd after several hours of protests.
Georgia’s Interior Ministry said 77 people were arrested during initial protests Tuesday over the proposed bill.