Georgian Parliament Erupts in Brawl Over Controversial ‘Foreign Agents’ Bill

A physical altercation broke out in the Georgian parliament as lawmakers from the ruling party were poised to push forward a controversial “foreign agents” bill that has drawn criticism from Western nations. The proposed legislation would require civil society organizations receiving more than 20% of their annual funding from foreign sources to publicly declare that they are “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” or face fines.

Television footage showed Mamuka Mdinaradze the leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party’s parliamentary faction being punched in the face by opposition MP Aleko Elisashvili as he spoke from the dispatch box.

Georgians along with Western countries oppose the measure comparing it to Russian laws used by the Kremlin to silence dissent. The European Union which granted Georgia candidate status in December has stated that the move is incompatible with the bloc’s values.

The Georgian Dream party claims it wants the country to join the EU and NATO even as it has deepened ties with Russia and faced accusations of authoritarianism at home. The party argues that the bill is necessary to combat what it calls “pseudo-liberal values” imposed by foreigners and to promote transparency.

On April 15 2024 thousands of protesters gathered outside the parliament building to voice their opposition to the legislation. One reason for the massive opposition is that the term “foreign agent” is rooted in the Soviet past and suggests such people are traitors and enemies of the state.

Russia is viewed highly unfavorably in Georgia primarily because of the government’s support for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In 2008 Russia defeated Georgia in a conflict.

If the foreign agent legislation passes the legislature’s legal affairs committee which is likely since the Georgian Dream party controls the committee it will then advance to a first reading in parliament. Elections will be held in the Eastern European country in October 2024 and although the Georgian Dream party is the most prominent its numbers have been dwindling since 2020.

As tensions continue to rise the outcome of the legislation and its consequences for Georgia’s future remain uncertain.