Georgia lawmakers tussle over ‘foreign agents’ bill

A female member of the Georgia Parliament struck a male colleague on the head with a plastic water bottle Monday during a heated discussion about a contentious "foreign agents" law.
‘Foreign agents’ bill:  A female member of the Georgia Parliament struck a male colleague on the head with a plastic water bottle Monday during a heated discussion about a contentious "foreign agents" law.[VOA]
‘Foreign agents’ bill: A female member of the Georgia Parliament struck a male colleague on the head with a plastic water bottle Monday during a heated discussion about a contentious "foreign agents" law.[VOA]

‘Foreign agents’ bill: A female member of the Georgia Parliament struck a male colleague on the head with a plastic water bottle Monday during a heated discussion about a contentious "foreign agents" law.

A video posted on local media showed Khatia Dekanoidze hitting majority member Guram Macharashvili with the bottle, while Macharashvili shouted and wagged his finger in response.

Macharashvili was unhurt. Fourteen opposition Parliament members were expelled from the meeting.

The proposed legislation would force organizations to register as foreign agents if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

More than 20,000 demonstrators protested against the bill Sunday in the capital, Tbilisi. Georgia is bracing for more protests this week.

Russia is deeply unpopular among Georgians for its firm support of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In 2008, Georgia lost a brief war against Russia, and the locals haven’t forgotten.

Opponents have called the bill "Russian-inspired and authoritarian," comparing it to Moscow’s own law on foreign agents, which the Kremlin uses to crack down on dissent.

The governing Georgian Dream Party, which supports the bill’s passage, said the law would help ensure that the funding of nongovernmental organizations is transparent.

The Dream Party dropped a similar bill last year after a wave of anti-government demonstrations, during which police used tear gas and water cannons against protesters.

The European Union said the proposed bill would weaken Tbilisi's two-year bid for EU membership, which is supported by 80% of the population, according to opinion polls.

The bill "will bring Georgia further away from the EU and not closer," said European Council chief Charles Michel.

The Georgian Dream Party bused in thousands of people from across the country Monday evening for a pro-government rally in the capital, amid reports that government employees were forced to attend.

A senior ruling party official cited by local media said the party insisted that demonstrators attend of their own volition, but the party helped its supporters with travel costs and transportation.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, who opposes the law, said on X that the rally was "a 'Putintype' action.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson said Moscow had nothing to do with the legislation.

Parliament's legal affairs committee said the law would receive its second of three readings Tuesday. VOA/SP

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