Georgia parliament passes ‘foreign agent’ bill, triggering massive protests


Numerous demonstrators in Georgia have hit the pavement after parliament sanctioned a bill regarding "foreign agents" despite the recent unrest in the nation and admonitions from the European Union and the United States.

In order to be in accordance with the law, media and NGOs need to register as "serving for a foreign power" if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from overseas. This has been criticized by many as it seems to be inspired by Russia's laws which were used to restrict opposing political voices and criticisms towards the Russian government.

During the last reading of the bill, politicians made a vote with 84 members in favor and only 30 against it on Tuesday.

For the past month, demonstrations have been taking place in the heart of the capital city, Tbilisi. Recently, protesters clashed with riot police on the streets outside the parliament building.

There were even fights that happened inside the gathering area as opposition politicians got into altercations with those from the ruling Georgian Dream political party.

The proposal will pass to President Salome Zourabichvili for her consideration. She has previously mentioned that she plans to block the proposal; however, there is a possibility for the parliament to vote again and overturn her decision. It is important to note that Georgian Dream and its supporters hold the majority of seats in parliament.

The bill has been criticized as a representation of how the previous Soviet nation has moved closer to being under the influence of Russia in the past few years.

Around 2,000 protesters, mostly young people, gathered outside the parliament before the vote, shouting "we reject the Russian law". Later in the evening, the number of protesters increased to several thousand when they joined a rally after learning that the bill had been passed.

Protesters eventually obstructed the flow of vehicles at a crucial street junction situated in the heart of Tbilisi.

According to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, 13 individuals who had been protesting were taken into custody for violating police instructions.

The European Union has declared that the law does not align with Georgia's ongoing efforts to become a member of the 27-nation union.

Georgia received official EU candidacy last year and in December, the bloc is supposed to make a decision about starting formal accession talks. However, this is unlikely to happen if the law is put into action.

When he visited Georgia, Jim O'Brien, the Assistant Secretary of State of the United States, declared that if the law was not brought into line with Western norms and if peaceful protestors were subjected to violence, the US could enact "travel limitations and financial penalties for the individuals and their families" involved in such action.

He cautioned that the $390 million that the United States granted to Georgia this year will be reconsidered if they perceive Georgia as a rival instead of an ally.

Georgian Dream has portrayed the demonstrators as unruly crowds, affirmed its dedication to becoming part of the EU, and declared that the proposed legislation is intended to boost transparency related to the financing of non-governmental organizations.

There is a dispute about the bill happening just five months before the upcoming parliamentary election in the Black Sea nation, which is considered a significant trial for its democracy.

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