Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili vetoes controversial ‘Russian law’

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed a newly passed law that requires organisations receiving over 20% of their funding from abroad to register themselves as “foreign agents”, she announced on Saturday.

“This law, in its essence and spirit, is fundamentally Russian, contradicting our constitution and all European standards. It thus represents an obstacle to our European path.,” Zourabichvili said.

The vetoed legislation, which cannot now be revised and must be cancelled, would be sent back to the Georgian parliament, Zourabichvili said.

However, following a 2010 rewrite of the Georgian constitution designed to weaken the powers of the presidency, a simple majority of 77 votes in parliament is sufficient to override the veto. The ruling Georgian Dream party, which introduced the law, has 84 deputies, all of whom previously voted in favour of its adoption.

The law was finally adopted on Tuesday amid a month of massive street protests in the Georgian capital Tbilisi that involved as many as 50,000 protesters, according to unofficial estimates. The police ultimately used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to end the protests, while lawmakers debating the bill in parliament also came to blows on several occasions.

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.

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.

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