March 10 (UPI) — Georgia’s parliament formally rejected a bill that could have labeled many in the media and opposition groups as “foreign agents” on Friday.
The parliament voted 35-1 to shoot down the bill, which sparked days of public protests in the capital of Tbilisi. It can be revived within 30 days if changes are made to thee original text.
The move came after Georgia’s ruling Georgian Dream Party said on Thursday it would abandon the law in the wake of the demonstrations which saw dozens arrested after clashes with law enforcement.
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili had said she would veto the bill even though the Georgian Dream Party leaders initially said it was needed to guarantee transparency.
“I’m proud of every person who came out, every single person who has expressed his or her will and European-ness,” she said.
Georgia had filed to join the European Union, but EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned the legislation as “incompatible” with the bloc’s “values and standards.”
Demonstrators argued that the foreign agents’ law mirrored ones in Russia that have been used to purge opposition groups and silence independent media outlets. Organizations in Georgia, a former Soviet republic, would have been forced to register as “agents of foreign influence” if they received more than 20% of their funding from “a foreign power.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has often been compared to a similar Moscow invasion of Georgia in 2008 where Georgia lost land to the Kremlin but left many residents eager for closer ties to the West.
Moscow spokesman Dmitri Peskov said while Russia was not involved in the legislation, he accused others of “trying to add anti-Russian elements” into Georgia. He pointed out that Zourabichvili talked about the bill Thursday while in the United States on a working visit.
“This can trigger provocations, and we watch this closely and with great concern,” Peskov said in a briefing.