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Fight in the Georgian parliament over the “foreign influence” bill.

Fight in the Georgian parliament over the “foreign influence” bill.

Representatives discuss the “foreign influence” law

Clashes broke out in the Georgian parliament on Monday over the government's reintroduction of a controversial bill. “Foreign influence” law This, critics say, reflects repressive Russian legislation used to silence and intimidate opponents.

ruling party Georgian dream She announced the proposal earlier this month, reviving a similar bill that was abandoned a year ago after mass protests.

A video clip showed a parliamentary hearing An opposition parliamentarian hits a ruling party representative on the head Who co-sponsored the bill, which led to fights and disruption of the live broadcast.

The fight occurred while dozens of Georgians demonstrated outside parliament against the proposed law, which they say undermines candidacy Georgia To be a member of European Union (European Union).

Ahead of the demonstration planned for Monday night, demonstrators can be seen raising a large EU flag and shouting: “No to Russian law!”

“Georgian society is strong enough not to allow the country to slide into Russian-style authoritarianism,” said Saba Gutua, an architect.

“We will not allow the Georgian dream to waste Georgia’s historic opportunity to become a member of the European Union.”

Georgia has sought for years to deepen its relations with the West, however The current ruling party is accused of trying to reconnect the former Soviet republic with Russia.

After the first attack, clashes broke out between other MPs (TV footage)

According to the draft law, Any independent organization that receives more than 20% of funding from abroad will be required to register as an “organization pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

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This is a change from last year's proposal, which used the term “agent of foreign influence.”

Georgian Dream said it changed the wording after accepting that the first letter had negative connotations.

The term “foreign agent” has its roots in the Soviet past and suggests that these people are traitors and enemies of the state.

Last week, about 8,000 people held a demonstration in the city centre TbilisiThis came after the ruling party's surprise announcement of its intention to pass the bill in May.

Analysts said that the ruling party, which is widely suspected of secret cooperation with… KremlinIt sees Western funding of pro-democracy NGOs and independent media in Georgia as a challenge to its hold on power.

“The Georgian Dream does not hide that the law aims to neutralize Western influence.” Political analyst Gia Nodia told AFP.

“The party keeps saying it is steering Georgia toward the European Union, but in reality it is sabotaging Georgia's European prospects,” which opinion polls show about 80 percent of the population supports.

Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli KobakhidzeKnown for his anti-Western rhetoric, he insisted that his government was committed to the country's European aspirations.

In an attempt to support the ruling party's cause, ambassadors from European Union countries that criticized the draft law called for live televised debates.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze (Reuters/Nadia Wohlleben)

the European Commission Asked Tbilisi Disagree with the legislation saying so It conflicts with the democratic reform agenda Which Georgia must follow to move forward on its path towards European Union membership.

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In December, the European Union granted Georgia official candidate status, but said Tbilisi must reform its judicial and electoral systems, reduce political polarization, improve press freedom, and restrict the power of oligarchs before formally launching talks on its membership.

The United States said last week that passing the law “will divert Georgia from its European path.”

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters: “We are deeply concerned that this bill, if passed, will harm civil society organizations (and)… hinder independent media organizations.”

When asked about the possibility of the United States imposing sanctions on Georgia, he said, “Stay tuned.”

Adoption of the controversial legislation is likely to further deepen divisions in Georgia, whose president is staunchly pro-Western Salome ZurabishviliHe condemned the draft law and described it as harmful to democracy.

Georgia is traditionally seen as a leader in democratization among the former Soviet republics, and has been criticized in recent years for backsliding in this regard.