Protests and clashes with police have broken out in Georgia after parliament gave preliminary approval to a bill on «foreign agents», writes Reuters.
Critics of the bill say it paves the way for authoritarian rule. If passed, the law will require any organization that receives more than 20% of its funding from abroad to register with a «foreign agent» registry.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse a large demonstration of thousands of people in central Tbilisi. Protesters feared that the new bill would affect the South Caucasus country’s chances of becoming a member of the European Union. The President of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, is currently on an official visit to the US and informed that she will use the right of veto. In her video address, she said:
«You represent a free Georgia, a Georgia which sees its future in the West and won’t let anyone take this future away. Nobody needs this law… everyone who has voted for this law has violated the constitution.»
One of the protesters, 30-year-old Demetre Shanshiashvili, said the protesters had come because they did not want to become part of Russia again.
The ruling party, which says it wants Georgia to join the European Union, has criticized opponents of the bill for targeting the Georgian Orthodox Church, which is one of the most influential institutions in the country. During the consideration of the draft law on Monday, the 6th of March, a fight broke out in the parliament.