Georgia's ruling party reintroduces 'foreign agents law' despite past protests

Georgia's ruling party reintroduces 'foreign agents law' despite past protests
Protests in front of the Georgian parliament last year. / bne IntelliNews
By Tornike Mandaria in Tbilisi April 3, 2024

Georgia's ruling Georgian Dream party says it is still planning to adopt the so-called Foreign Agents Law, which it withdrew last year following mass protests.

The Western partners of Georgia, including the USA and the European Union, view the law as an obstacle to Georgia's Western integration.

Mamuka Mdinaradze, executive secretary of the party, said that the bill will be introduced in the parliament with exactly the same text as it was introduced last year, with the sole difference that it will label organisations receiving foreign funding not as "agents of foreign influence" but "organisations supporting the interests of a foreign power".

"The radical opposition, NGOs, and their lobbyists misled an important segment of Georgian society last year, leading to the rejection of a law designed to ensure the accountability and transparency of NGOs. We are the government elected by the Georgian people, and protecting the dignity of Georgian society is our main responsibility," he said.

Mdinaradze pointed out that Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder and honourary chairman of Georgian Dream, supports the reintroduction of the law.

Georgian Dream, which has faced accusations of authoritarianism and pro-Russian tendencies from inside the country as well as in the West, initially wanted to adopt the law in March 2023.  

The law was widely believed to be targetting civil society organisations and the media that receive funding from the West. It was soon named the 'Russian law' due to its similarity to legislation used to crush civil society in Russia, triggering the biggest demonstrations in Georgia in years.  

Protests escalated into violence after police employed tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons in an attempt to disperse demonstrators.  Eventually, the government was forced to withdraw the legislation.

At the time, the ruling party promised it would not pursue such an initiative again. However, it now plans to pass the law before the end of the spring session of parliament, or by the end of June.

Georgia was granted candidate status for accession to the EU in December. Since then the government, which faces elections in October, has announced another Russian-style plan to ban what it describes as LGBTQ+ "propaganda".