Georgia’s ruling party abandoned a draft law targeting “foreign agents” after a night of violent clashes between police and protesters in the capital, Tbilisi.
“We saw how the legislation caused some turmoil,” the Georgian Dream party said in a statement Thursday abandoning the draft law that was bluntly criticized by the European Union and the US, which compared it to one used by President Vladimir Putin to crush dissent in Russia. “We have decided to withdraw the law unconditionally,” it said.
The announcement came hours after riot police fired tear gas and used a water cannon against demonstrators protesting outside the parliament in Tbilisi. It was the second night of violence in a row after lawmakers passed the draft law at first reading on Monday.
The measure threatened fines and imprisonment for as long as five years to organizations or individuals who receive at least 20% of their income from abroad and fail to register with the government as an “agent of foreign influence.” The EU and the US State Department both warned in unusually blunt terms that passage of the law would harm Georgia’s relations with them.
Opposition groups had labeled the proposal a “Russian law,” warning it would undermine Georgia’s decades-long efforts to escape Moscow’s influence and join the EU and NATO.
They won support from President Salome Zourabichvili, who called for the law to be dropped in a late-night video address from New York on Tuesday. She also pledged to veto the legislation that’s aimed at media and non-governmental organizations, and accused lawmakers who supported it of violating Georgia’s constitution.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili defended the initiative on Tuesday, saying it addressed a lack of transparency and accountability. “The future of our country doesn’t belong and won’t belong to foreign agents and servants of the foreign country, the future of our country and people belong to the patriots,” he said.