Weeks of protests in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi have culminated in the largest crowd turnouts yet, as tens of thousands have flooded the capital’s streets in response to Georgia’s proposed “Transparency of Foreign Influence Bill”. In raucous demonstrations today, crowds confronted hordes of riot police as they attempted to block MPs from entering the parliament.

The controversial bill, which could pass this week, aims to label any organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad as “foreign agents”. Many of Georgia’s prominent civil society organisations and non-profits would fall under this category and be branded as foreign funded.

This proposal has ignited a firestorm in the small post-Soviet state, as critics in civil society believe it closely resembles Russia’s autocratic foreign agent law which, while innocuous at first, has been greatly expanded over the years. The current iteration of Russia’s law is vast and been frequently employed to smother domestic opposition and human rights figures.

Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, asserts that this bill is a far cry from Putin’s. The party, which has applied for EU membership, rejects the Russian-connection and claims the law is a necessary step to re-establish sovereignty.

Georgian Dream has affirmed that their bill is actually a copy-paste of America’s Foreign Agents Act, which arose in response to attempted Nazi infiltration campaigns in the 1930s. The US law has been lauded for increasing transparency and ensuring accountability in lobbying.  

Georgia’s proposed bill is set against a backdrop of growing instability. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine greatly heightened the Caucasus nation’s unease as many Georgians fear their semi-occupied country is next on the chopping block.

Despite growing anxieties and strong domestic support for Ukraine, Georgian Dream has refused to sanction Russia, calling the idea “ridiculous” and claiming it would destroy their economy. Additionally, the party has reopened flights from Moscow and several GD members have blamed Ukraine for the war.

As tension grips Tbilisi, opposition figures are calling on UK officials for solidarity in condemning the bill. Many Western nations have heeded this call in recent days, condemning the measure and the government’s heavy-handed response. Pressure, internally and externally, is mounting on Georgian Dream as it forges ahead with its controversial foreign agent bill. 

Write to us with your comments to be considered for publication at letters@reaction.life