Georgia, parliament bypasses veto and approves “Russian law”

Political earthquake underway in Georgiawhere the country’s parliament overrode the president’s veto Salomé Zourabichvili to the so-called law on “foreign agents”. The same law, so to speak, which has sparked massive protests and which critics are calling a “Russian law” as a threat to free speech and which will hinder Tbilisi’s chances of joining the European Union. Going into detail, the national legislative assembly, controlled by the ruling party Georgian Dream, rejected the presidential veto. It means that Zourabichvili will now have 5 days to approve the law. In the event that he does not do so, the president of the same parliament will sign the text, making it become law.

What’s happening in Georgia

It all revolves around the controversial “Foreign Agents Law”. Well, the deputies of the ruling Georgian Dream party have overturned the presidential veto. The measure will therefore come into force 60 days from today. The bill, passed by parliament earlier this month, requires media, non-governmental organizations and other non-profit groups to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of theirs financing from abroad. Zourabichvili, increasingly at odds with the ruling party, vetoed the law on May 18, accusing the ruling party of jeopardizing the future of the country and “obstruct the path to becoming a full member of the free and democratic world“.

The veto was rejected with a vote of 84 votes against 4 in a contentious parliamentary session, during which a lawmaker from the ruling Georgian Dream party poured water on the leader of an opposition party as he spoke from the stage. The government claims the bill is necessary to stem what it sees as harmful foreign actors seeking to destabilize the South Caucasus country of 3.7 million people, but many Georgian journalists and activists say the bill’s real goal and to stigmatize them and limit the debate in view of the parliamentary elections scheduled for October.

Opponents call it Russian law because it resembles measures approved by the Kremlin to crack down on independent media, nonprofits and activists. According to critics, the measure may have been wanted by Moscow to hinder Georgia’s chances of further integrating into the West. The bill is almost identical to one that the ruling party was forced to withdraw last year after massive street protests.

Political arm wrestling

The heated parliamentary debate lasted almost 7 hours, while hundreds of opponents awaited its outcome in front of the legislative building in central Tbilisi. After the veto in the Georgian Parliament came the appeals of United States and European Union not to approve the law, with Brussels warning that its approval will have a negative impact on Georgia’s EU path, which at the end of last year obtained candidate status for entry into the Union.

Very soon all Georgian citizens, all friends of Georgia will see that civil society will continue to work. All professionals who publicly do good for Georgia, serve its interests, will be able to continue to carry out their activities peacefully“, said Archil Talakvadze, deputy speaker of Parliament and deputy of the ruling Georgian Dream party. According to David Jadzhishvili, deputy of the main opposition party, the United National Movementthe law “prevents Georgia from joining the European Union“. The politician compared the founder of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili, to the former president Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovych, overthrown in 2014.

Several hundred people gathered in front of parliament to protest against the law as part of a demonstration called by the opposition.

The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrelldeclared yesterday that the Union will be able to take measures against Georgia in June if the law on foreign agents is definitively approved, while the United States announced the restriction of visas for those responsible for both the document and the repression of the protests last few weeks.

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