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The Daily Beat: 10 April

The ruling majority’s aggressive and surprise reintroduction of the Foreign Agents Law continues to dominate domestic public discourse as more and more prominent figures, including actors, athletes, musicians, directors, journalists, and academics, say no to Russian-style law and criticize the authorities for derailing the country from the EU path. Reacting to public outcry, PM Irakli Kobakhidze says the opposition is trying to drag various athletes and art people into a dirty political campaign. At the same time, Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze believes it is “total stupidity” to describe the bill as “Russian-style.”

The U.S. Ambassador Robin Dunnigan reiterated the United States’ “serious concern” over the re-tabled Foreign Agents Law by the ruling Georgian Dream party. “If your Western partners and friends all have said that they have serious concerns with this legislation, but your occupiers have welcomed it, you have to ask whether it is a good thing for your country,” said the U.S. Ambassador at the opening of an American Center in Khashuri.

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jim O’Brien also denounced both the Foreign Agents Bill and anti-LGBT legislative initiative by the ruling Georgian Dream party, saying, “It risks moving Georgia away from Europe,” adding that “the U.S. will always speak up in defense of human rights for all, including freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.”

In the run-up to Georgian PM Irakli Kobakhidze‘s visit to Germany on April 12 and his scheduled meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, Michael Roth, reacted to the reintroduction of the Foreign Agents Law in a social media post, saying the law is “incompatible” with EU membership. “Georgian Dream should listen to its people: 90% of Georgians want to join the EU, not Putin’s Russia!” Roth wrote.

The European Union’s Political and Security Committee (PSC) members are making a working visit to Georgia. The delegation met with President Salome Zurabishvili, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze, the Foreign and Defense Ministers, representatives of the parliamentary majority and opposition, and CSOs, urging the Georgian authorities to seize the moment as the EU’s door remains open and avoid any decisions that could obstruct the country’s EU integration.

The criticism from the international community, in its turn, prompted reactions from across the country’s political spectrum, especially after U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller was quoted as saying that right now, the State Department is “making clear that we are concerned with this draft legislation” and hinting at the possibility of further U.S. sanctions, if the law is adopted, on the part of the U.S.: “With respect to what we might do if it moves forward, stay tuned.” In this piece, collected comments from both the ruling party and the opposition representatives regarding Matthew Miller’s statement.

In the meantime, a public opinion poll commissioned by the ruling party’s mouthpiece, Imedi TV, suggests that if elections were held this week, 60.4% would vote for the Georgian Dream, 12.6% for the UNM-Strategy Agmashenebeli, 4.7% for Lelo, 4.5% for European Georgia and 3.7% for former prime minister Giorgi Gakharia’s For Georgia party. According to the survey, all the other political parties are not even closer to the 5% threshold, scoring 3% or less.  


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