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Georgian parliament drops 'foreign agents' bill

March 10, 2023

Georgia's proposed "foreign agents" bill did not pass parliament's second reading after the ruling party withdrew support under pressure. The move comes after days of opposition protests.

A young woman holds a Georgian national flag and an EU flag during a rally against a draft law near the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, Thursday, March 9, 2023.
Protests against the bill continued even after the ruling party withdrew support for itImage: Zurab Tsertsvadze/AP Photo/picture alliance

The Georgian parliament dropped on Friday a bill that brands organizations receiving funding from abroad as "foreign agents" after the ruling party abandoned it following mass protests in the capital.

The controversial bill failed to garner enough votes in its second reading in parliament. On Thursday, responding to protests, the ruling Georgian Dream party announced it was withdrawing support for the bill.

The proposed bill, similar to laws in Russia, would have classified non-governmental organizations and media outlets as "foreign agents" if they received 20% or more of their funding from abroad.

The proposal was officially to target the disclosure of money flows from abroad, but protesters feared it would be used to harass government critics and clamp down on the opposition.

DW on the ground in Tbilisi

What happened in parliament?

Out of the 36 legislators who voted on the bill, only one voted in favor.

Outside parliament, hundreds of anti-government protesters rallied. Opposition parties had vowed in a joint briefing on Thursday to continue protesting until the bill was dropped and all arrested protesters were released.

Participants in a protest against a draft law on foreign agents, in Rustaveli Avenue.
Protests continued even after the ruling party said it was dropping the billImage: Alexander Patrin/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

Protests ignited on Tuesday after the initial reading of the bill in parliament. Protesters clashed with police, with some 77 arrests made on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Protesters were on the streets again on Thursday night, even after the ruling party said it would withdraw the bill. 

Why does the opposition oppose the bill?

The bill has garnered much criticism due to its similarity to a 2012 Russian law that also brands organizations receiving foreign funding as "foreign agents." The notorious Russian law has been used to crack down on dissent, particularly since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

Many Georgians pushing for the country to join the EU and NATO also feared the proposed legislation would complicate their already long route to joining the blocs.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell had called the draft legislation a "very bad development," adding that it could hurt Georgia's ties with the bloc.

Last year, the EU refrained from granting Georgia candidate status alongside Moldova and Ukraine. It said political and judicial reforms were needed first.

Georgia: Protests against 'foreign agent' bill

rmt/sms (AFP, Reuters)