Large protests in Georgia as ‘authoritarian’ law looms

Thousands of people protested against a controversial new bill in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, on Tuesday. Under the proposal, organizations whose funding is more than 20 percent from abroad must register as “foreign agents”. If they fail to do so, they could face heavy fines.

According to many, the law is a way to silence critics of the government, who sometimes depend on money inflows from abroad. If an organization is registered as a foreign agent, the authorities can monitor it more extensively. But international news agencies reported that the law had won provisional approval from parliament.

Then many people took to the streets in the center of Tbilisi to demonstrate against the proposal. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. Opponents of the law say the law jeopardizes Georgia’s chance of joining the European Union. “I know my country belongs to Europe, but my government doesn’t understand that,” one protester told the Reuters news agency.

Possible veto

Critics fear Georgia is slowly becoming more authoritarian. On the streets of Tbilisi, some demonstrators pointed to Russia, saying “No to Russian law,” and activists chanted on the steps of the parliament building. The country’s largest party, the Georgian Dream, supports the law. The same party wants Georgia to join the European Union. According to Prime Minister Giorgi Garibashvili, the law meets “European and international standards”.

The law is also controversial within Parliament: On Monday, a fight broke out between politicians in Parliament House after a debate over the proposal. In a video message, Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili criticized the plans. In that letter, she said she was willing to use her veto power to prevent the introduction of the law. How effective is that? Question: Parliament, in turn, has the power to override the president’s veto. The US Embassy in Tbilisi also reacted decisively to the initial approval of the law: March 7 will be a “black day for Georgian democracy,” the embassy writes on its website. website.

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