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Georgian Parliament Set to Overrule Presidential Veto On 'Foreign Agent' Law

Yesterday, Georgian parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili confirmed that he expects parliament to overrule President Salome Zurabishvili’s veto of the controversial “foreign agent” bill.

protest tbilisi parliament

Image: k_samurkas/Shutterstock

(RFE/RL) TBILISI -- Georgian parliamentary Speaker Shalva Papuashvili said lawmakers, as expected, will overrule President Salome Zurabishvili's veto of the so-called "foreign agent" bill targeting media and NGOs that are funded by foreign governments.

Papuashvili said on May 20 that he expects parliament, where his ruling Georgian Dream party has the numbers, will overrule the veto at a session next week.

Zurabishvili vetoed the controversial bill on May 18 following weeks of mass protests by Georgians who see the legislation as a way for the government to stifle civil society -- a similar law in Russia has been used to crack down on dissent -- and believe it endangers the country's path toward EU integration.

Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said on May 20 that Zurabishvili's move to veto the bill is "blocking room for a healthy discussion" of the legislation in question.

The law would require media and NGOs to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad.

U.S. media reports on May 19 said that U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson, who represents South Carolina, is working on a bill that would impose sanctions, including visa bans on Georgian government officials responsible for pushing through the foreign agent bill.

Zurabishvili said she considered the law "unacceptable" and "inconsistent" with the country's EU path. She has also warned that the legislation endangers the very existence of the Georgian state.

Zurabishvili also said the Georgian Dream party, together with several opposition members of parliament, turned a deaf ear to the tens of thousands of Georgians who took to the streets to oppose any shift away from a pro-Western course back toward Russia.

The "Law On Transparency Of Foreign Influence," the bill's full name, has been condemned by the United States, the European Union, and rights watchdogs, and prompted weeks of unrest, which was often quelled through violent means by authorities.

Opponents have pointed to the similarity to legislation used by President Vladimir Putin to crush dissent in Russia and stifle independent institutions, prompting Georgians to refer to the measure as "the Russian law."