Georgian parliament passes divisive ‘foreign agent’ bill in third and final reading

The Georgian parliament passed a highly controversial “foreign agents” bill in its third and final reading during a legislative session on Tuesday, according to Georgia’s Public Broadcaster.

The law, which obliges NGOs that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “agents of foreign influence”, has been dubbed the “Russian law” for its similarity to the the Kremlin’s notorious foreign agent law, which has been weaponised by the Russian government to crack down on the domestic political opposition, journalists critical of the regime and NGOs campaigning against human rights violations, among others.

In a parliamentary session that lasted for almost four hours as deputies took turns to argue for or against the emotive law, 84 of the chamber’s 150 deputies voted in favour of the bill, while 30 voted against.

With tensions in the country high after weeks of protests against the law, physical fights among parliamentarians broke out at several points during the session, while a crowd of thousands continued to protest outside, blocking Tbilisi’s main avenue.

Following the announcement that the law had been adopted, protesters attempted to barricade the parliament building, blocking its exits to prevent deputies leaving. Hundreds of special forces officers surrounded the building and one protestor was detained.

Many of those opposed to the law see its passing as indicative of Russia’s enduring influence in Georgia, which was part of the Russian Empire for over a century before being absorbed into the Soviet Union following the Russian revolution in 1917.

Georgian riot police have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protestors in recent weeks, something that has been widely criticised by the West.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has indicated that she will veto the bill, but her veto can be overturned by a simple majority in parliament since the powers of the Georgian president were dramatically cut back in constitutional changes pushed through in 2010.

The EU has criticised the law for being “incompatible with EU norms,” and has warned Tbilisi that its adoption may jeopardise Georgia’s stated aim to join the European Union.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.