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Georgian Dream Foreign Agents Law Sparks Crisis and Protests

By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Thursday, March 16, 2023
On March 7, Georgian Dream openly created a political crisis in the country by passing the first reading of the law on foreign agents. The country has been moving to this crisis at an accelerated pace lately. The further development of the events depends on the scale of protests in the country and the reaction of the West.

On March 7, 78 deputies of the majority in the parliament building voted for the draft law "on transparency of foreign influence" in the first hearing. These deputies include deputies of the Georgian Dream and its division People's Power. Four MPs from the majority in the chamber initially said they did not vote for the bill, but two later, apparently under additional pressure, said there had been a "technical error" and that they supported the bill.

The Parliament of Georgia has 150 members and judging by the results of the voting mentioned above, the Georgian Dream is maintaining the majority with great efforts. There is an expectation that the Georgian Dream members will begin to fluctuate and at least a few MPs will leave the party. After noisy committee hearings of the agents' bill, it was said that Parliament would consider it in the first reading on March 9, but Georgian Dream immediately put it to the vote on March 7, after electing its preferred candidate for the public defender.

With the sudden adoption of the draft law, they probably thought that the public protest would not be big, however, the protest took on a large-scale character, and the Georgian Dream also made extensive use of pre-prepared police forces - raiding with gas, water jets, rubber bullets and batons. 66 people participating in the rally were arrested. The large-scale use of force against peaceful protesters is obviously not accidental. The 'line of defense' of the government runs through these police forces, and Georgian Dream wanted to show their strength and power by using it on a large scale on March 7. It was also noticed that a number of policemen were carrying out the received orders with joy and enthusiasm.

In the recent period and even today, the issue of what took the Georgian Dream to introduce and accept the law of agents on the political scene is being actively discussed. What did they gain by doing so? Some think that this is a request received from Moscow and Bidzina Ivanishvili is being ordered to fulfill this request.

Moscow wants Georgia to openly defect to the Russia-Belarus camp and end talks about Euro-Atlantic aspirations. According to others, the Georgian Dream is preparing for the parliamentary elections of 2024 and with the law of foreign agents should destroy the non-governmental sector, whose existence and development took place with the support of the West during the past 30 years after the restoration of independence. The Georgian Dream has been fighting real political opposition for a long time, and in this regard, unfortunately, they have achieved significant success. Today, the non-governmental sector and independent media are the main barriers to maintaining and strengthening the government.

The current rhetoric of the Georgian Dream is also strange. On the one hand, they continue to talk about fulfilling the requirements of the European Union and receiving candidate status. On the other hand, they have been openly cursing the MEPs and European structures for a long time. Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili calls the resolution of the European Parliament, which talked about Mikheil Saakashvili, 'shameful'. According to Gharibashvili, it turns out that the European parliamentarians "told us that Saakashvili is their agent, he was their servant", and now, according to him, "the time when politicians and authorities served the interests of foreign countries is over" in Georgia.

The main orator of the Georgian Dream Irakli Kobakhidze calls the 'radical opposition' foreign spies, who should be exposed and neutralized, he compares them to Sergo Orjonikidze and other Bolsheviks, who brought the Russian Red Army into Georgia in 1921, and declares the National Movement as agents of Russia.

Someone might get confused and not understand whether the leaders of the Georgian Dream are fighting Western spies or Russian spies. But we have to remember Kobakhidze's other statement about the Global War Party and the desire allegedly coming from the West to involve Georgia in the war against Russia.

The adoption of the law on agents and the crackdown on a peaceful demonstration were followed by harsh statements from the West, which indicated that it would greatly harm Georgia's European perspective. However, such statements cannot scare Georgian Dream, whose representatives have already openly declared that they do not want 'such Europe'. Many strange phrases were heard from these people, for example, we heard that "betrayal of the motherland does not require reading a book". As strange as it may sound, this is the truth. It also turned out to be true that "getting an education in the West" is not a guarantee of possessing Western values at all.

Despite the tangible results shown by the mass protests and the official withdrawal of the "foreign agents" bill by the Georgian Dream, there is still uncertainty about how the government will address the public's clear opposition to its pro-Russian politics and reverse its current trajectory towards Russia.