Georgia’s president vetoes ‘Russian law’ which sparked mass protests

World

Georgia’s president has vetoed a controversial bill which sparked weeks of mass protests in the country, as critics call the new legislation a “Russian law”. 

The “foreign agents” bill passed by parliament earlier this week would force media and non-governmental organisations and other non-profit groups to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20% of funding from abroad.

It sparked riots outside parliament which saw police snatching protesters and leaving one with multiple head injuries.

President Salome Zourabichvili on Saturday vetoed the legislation, the same bill the government was last year pressured into abandoning because of street protests.

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Georgian protesters clash with police

Read more:
What is the ‘Russian law’ that sparked Georgia protests?
Georgians protest against law that will test country’s future direction

The president said the bill, which the White House in Washington DC has described as a “Kremlin style law”, contradicts Georgia’s constitution and “all European standards”, adding it “must be abolished”.

Image:
Georgia’s president Salome Zourabichvili

“Today I vetoed a Russian law. This law is Russian in its essence and spirit,” TASS quoted Ms Zourabichvili as saying.

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She went on: “It contradicts our constitution and all European standards, therefore it represents an obstacle to our European path.”

The veto, however, is likely to be overturned by the same government majority which approved what critics say are laws based on those adopted by President Vladimir Putin to stifle opposition in Russia.

The president is increasingly at odds with the ruling party, Georgian Dream, considered by many as pro-Russian.

The Georgian government insists the law, which critics say could hinder Georgia’s efforts to integrate into the EU, is intended to promote transparency and curb what it deems harmful foreign influence in the country.

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The EU offered Georgia, a country of 3.7 million people, candidate status last December while making it clear that Tbilisi needs to implement key policy recommendations for its membership bid to progress.

It has asked for action to be taken in a number of areas including elections must remain free and fair, fighting disinformation “against the EU and its values”, and safeguarding the independence of public institutions such as the central bank and anti-corruption bodies.

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