9th of March (UPI) After two days of unrest inside and outside the parliament building in the nation’s capital Tbilisi, Georgia’s ruling Dream Party said on Thursday that it has abandoned its contentious “foreign agents” bill.
The party released a statement in which it stated that it had decided to unconditionally and without any reservations withdraw the law that it had backed by the accountable ruling power. It stated that the choice had been made in the interests of stability, economic growth, and not impeding Georgia’s march toward European integration.Although the party claimed that the law was defeated only because “a machine of lies was able to present the bill in a negative light and mislead a certain part of the public,” it was unclear whether the law had been permanently repealed. Instead, the party promised to hold a public consultation to outline the law’s requirements and justification.
The “transparency in foreign influence” measure, which mandates that media outlets, NGOs, and any group that receives more than 20% of its money from abroad register as foreign agents, sparked demonstrations on Tuesday when it passed its first reading in parliament.Tens of thousands of demonstrators besieged parliament leading to clashes with police who used water cannons and tear gas against protestors who in turn smashed windows, set vehicles ablaze and hurled stones and Molotov cocktails. At least 133 people were arrested and 60 officers injured, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Scuffles also broke out between rival politicians inside the legislative chamber.
Opponents feared the law was a “Kremlin-inspired” move aimed at curtailing free speech because it parallels tactics Moscow has used to silence criticism of the Russian government, particularly since its invasion of Ukraine.
The decision to drop the legislation, which had drawn widespread international condemnation, was welcomed by the European Union.
“We welcome the announcement by the ruling party to withdraw draft legislation on ‘foreign influence’. We encourage all political leaders in Georgia to resume pro-EU reforms, in an inclusive & constructive way and in line with the 12 priorities for Georgia to achieve candidate status,” the EU delegation to Georgia said in a Twitter post.