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Chaos In Georgian Parliament Over Controversial 'Foreign Agent' Law

 April 16, 2024

A brawl erupted within the walls of Georgia's parliament, highlighting the divisive nature of a proposed "foreign agents" law.

During a parliamentary session, opposition and ruling party members clashed physically over legislation likened to Russian policies, escalating into a chaotic scene, as Fox News reports.

The incident unfolded on Monday when Mamuka Mdinaradze, a prominent figure from the ruling Georgian Dream party, was discussing the contentious "foreign agents" bill.

Mdinaradze, 45, who leads the party's parliamentary faction, was advocating for the law when he was suddenly punched by opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili.

Violence Sparks Amid Legislative Debate

Elisashvili, 46, attacked Mdinaradze, causing him to topple over. This act triggered a broader physical confrontation among other members of parliament.

The confrontation was captured on video, showing MPs from both sides engaging in the brawl, marking a significant deterioration of parliamentary decorum.

Outside the parliament, the scene was equally charged. Protesters gathered in support of Elisashvili cheered him on, signaling widespread public dissent against the bill.

The proposed "foreign agents" bill, which is at the heart of the controversy, mandates that media and non-profit organizations register as foreign-influenced if they receive more than 20% of their funding from international sources. This legislation mirrors a similar law that was previously withdrawn after sparking massive protests last year.

Controversial Bill Seen As Threat To EU Aspirations

Supporters of the bill, including members of the Georgian Dream party, argue that it is essential for promoting transparency and countering what they describe as "pseudo-liberal values." However, the bill's detractors criticize it as a move akin to Russian governmental tactics designed to suppress dissent and control civil society.

This law is perceived as a significant barrier to Georgia's ambitions of joining the European Union. The EU has expressed its disapproval, stating that the legislation is incompatible with the democratic values central to the accession process.

On the day of the parliamentary brawl, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze was in discussions with ambassadors from the EU, U.K., and U.S., emphasizing the international scrutiny and concern surrounding the bill.

Presidential Veto Looms Over Controversial Legislation

Adding to the political drama, a representative of President Salome Zourabichvili announced that she intends to veto the bill should it pass through parliament. However, with Zourabichvili's term ending this year and the next president to be chosen by an electoral college, the future of this pledge remains uncertain.

Peter Stano, the spokesman for the EU's foreign-policy arm, emphasized the importance of an enabling environment for civil society and media freedom, linking it directly to the EU accession process. "Creating and maintaining an enabling environment for civil society organizations and ensuring media freedom is at the core of democracy. It is also crucial for the EU accession process," Stano stated.

Reflecting on the president's stance, parliamentary representative Giorgi Mskhiladze remarked, "President Salome Zourabichvili would veto the law if it is passed by parliament," highlighting the internal political resistance to the legislation.

Conclusion: A Nation Divided

As Georgia grapples with this divisive issue, the clash in parliament serves as a stark reminder of the deep societal and political rifts that the "foreign agents" bill could exacerbate.

The violence within the parliamentary halls and the cheers from protesters outside underscore a significant national debate that impacts Georgia's international relations and its democratic trajectory.

With the EU watching closely, the future of the bill and Georgia's geopolitical path remains in a state of flux.