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The Daily Beat: 29 April

On April 29, the Georgian Dream party held a rally on Rustaveli Avenue in support of the Foreign Agents Law, doubling down on anti-Western, sovereignist, and conspiracy rhetoric as well as  pledging a crackdown on “foreign agentura.” Participants, many of whom are reportedly public sector employees from various provinces of Georgia, were bussed to Tbilisi by the ruling party to join the event. Georgian Dream leaders, including Bidzina Ivanishvili, addressed the crowd with messages steeped in ultra-conservative rhetoric, leveling accusations towards the CSOs and unnamed “people who want to enslave and oppress this country.”

Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder and honorary chairman of the Georgian Dream party, addressed the supporters during the rally, publicly assuming the party’s policies, which run counter to the advice of the United States and the European Union. He specifically assumed responsibility for the Russia-styled “foreign agents law” and the legislation targeting the queer community. In a long speech, he also strongly endorsed the conspiracy theory that presents the “global party of war” as a force poised to subdue Georgia’s identity and sovereignty and announced repressions against the opponents, “the collective United National Movement” that are to follow the victory in October 2024 elections.

Earlier in the day, before holding the rally in front of the parliament, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament endorsed the Foreign Agents Bill in the second hearing. Committee Chair Anri Okhanashvili extensively used his authority to limit the opposition’s opportunity to comment on the draft law, expelling 17 people, including opposition MPs and CSO representatives, from the hearing.

While the committee hearing on Foreign Agents Law was still in progress, over 20 Georgian CSOs issued a joint statement, slamming Legal Affairs Committee Chair Anri Okhanashvili for “abusing power and restricting the ability of lawmakers, guaranteed by the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament, to oppose, ask tough questions and receive answers.” In a joint statement, the CSOs also claimed that the opportunity to ask questions was also restricted for CSO representatives.

Alexi (Buka) Petriashvili, former State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration in 2012-2014 in the ruling Georgian Dream government detained by police during the protest rally against the Foreign Agents law on April 28, was released on April 29. The Tbilisi City Court postponed his trial for May 1. Aleksi Petriashvili is currently a Senior Fellow at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation).

Over sixty former diplomats, including five former foreign ministers and 28 ambassadors, issued a joint statement accusing the ruling Georgian Dream and its honorary chairman, Bidzina Ivanishvili, of “making a 180-degree turn in the country’s foreign policy” and deliberately deviating from the path of European integration toward Russia. The former diplomats call on “every patriot” to speak out against “unjust laws or decisions.” “We would like to remind our colleagues, in the public or diplomatic service, that there are moments in the country’s history when silence is equal to complicity…,” the statement says.

In a statement released on April 28, the Business Association of Georgia (BAG) expressed concern that “political processes unfolding in the country” may threaten “a stable and predictable business environment.” With this statement, BAG, which unites and represents many of Georgia’s larger businesses, expressed support for the government as public resistance to the “foreign agents law” brings thousands of Georgians to the streets. The Association says it is worried about the law on “transparency of foreign influence,” but only inasmuch as its potential negative impact on the country’s economy and growth is concerned.

In separate statements shared by the government mouthpiece Imedi TV, government-affiliated business people such as Noshrevan Namoradze, Soso Pkhakadze, Khvicha Makatsaria, Ilia Tsulaia, Zurab Chkhaidze, Ivane Chkhartishvili and others have expressed clear support for the GD-initiated Foreign Agents Law, citing the necessity of transparency and accountability in the country. Some of those persons’ businesses are reportedly Russia-linked.


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