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Speaker of Georgian parliament announces plan to overrule president's veto of foreign agents law

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 20, 2024 12:58 PM 2 min read
Georgian Speaker of the Parliament Shalva Papuashvili makes a statement during a joint press conference with Ukrainian Speaker of the Parliament Ruslan Stefanchuk (not seen) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on April 16, 2022. (Georgian Parliament/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Shalva Papuashvili, the speaker of Georgia's parliament and a member of the ruling Georgian Dream party, announced on May 20 that the party plans to overrule Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili's veto of the controversial foreign agents law.

Zourabichvili, Georgia's pro-Western president and a political opponent of Georgian Dream, vetoed the law on May 18, but the government has a large enough majority in parliament to overrule it.

The bill requires organizations that receive foreign funding to be labeled as "foreign agents" and mirrors repressive Russian legislation used to crack down on Kremlin regime critics.

A previously undisclosed amendment to the law, made public on May 17, expands the purview of the legislation to private individuals, who will be required to disclose information about their supposed actions "serving (in) the interests of a foreign power."

Failure to do so would result in a fine of 5,000 Georgian lari (~$1,800).

Papuashvili said the parliament plans to vote to overrule the veto next week, but did not specify the exact date.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze criticized Zourabichvili's veto of the law, saying that it blocked "all space for healthy discussion." The parliament's legal committee took just one minute to assess the bill as many opposition lawmakers were blocked by police from entering the building.

There are still potential roadblocks in the law's path, namely a possible review by the judiciary. In her statement explaining the reasoning for her veto, Zourabichvili said that the foreign agents law violates Georgia's constitution by contradicting several key aspects of civil rights enshrined in the document.

The president also said it goes against Article 78 of the constitution, which obliges the government to seek Euro-Atlantic integration.

Due to the government's control over the judiciary, critics say that the likelihood of the courts preventing the law from being enacted is low.

Undisclosed EU officials previously told the Financial Times (FT) that the European Union plans to freeze Georgia's membership bid if it enacts the "foreign agents" law.

Protests in Tbilisi and other cities in Georgia have continued on a daily basis against the law.

Kobakhidze and other Georgian Dream officials have repeatedly tried to demonize the protest movement and claim that it is seeking to overthrow the government. Reiterating previous comments, Kobakhidze said on May 20 that the movement is trying to cause the "Ukrainisation of Georgia."

The prime minister said in April that the foreign agents law was needed to defend Georgia against "Ukrainization."

Georgian Dream has regularly invoked the trauma of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War and claimed that the West is seeking to involve Georgia in Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  

Explainer: What’s behind ongoing protests in Georgia?
For the past few weeks, thousands of protesters have gathered every night in front of the Georgian parliament in opposition to the controversial foreign agents law that the ruling Georgian Dream party is attempting to pass. The final vote is set to take place on May 14. The law would
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