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The Daily Beat: 3 May

On May 1, the ruling Georgian Dream party passed the Foreign Agents Law in its second reading amid ongoing mass protests and heavy criticism from Georgia’s good old partners. All 83 Georgian Dream MPs voted in favor of the controversial law and 23 against it, sparking mass demonstrations outside the parliament, and clashes between protesters and police.

Passage of the Law in the second hearing was followed by the tumultuous nights of protests marked by excessive police violence against peaceful demonstrators. The Interior Ministry reported the arrest of 63 people during the protest near the parliament. During the long tense night, many protesters were injured, as riot police used tear gas, water cannons, and pepper spray against citizens.

Levan Khabeishvili, Chair of the leading opposition United National Movement (UNM) party, was severely beaten by police during the April 30 – May 1 protests against the Foreign Agents Law. The next day, as Parliament continued its second reading of the infamous foreign agent’s law, Khabeishvili arrived in parliament in a wheelchair, despite strong recommendations that he be hospitalized. GD lawmakers regretted the violence but said that Khabeishvili provoked the incident.

Public Defender as well as two leading watchdogs Transparency International-Georgia and Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association issued statements regarding the violent dispersal of peaceful demonstrators, qualifying the use of force against the demonstrators by the law enforcers as “disproportionate.” The CSOs also condemned April 30-May 1 crackdown on protesters, saying that the dispersal was “unlawful” and “disproportionate.”

The violent dispersal of demonstrators by police sparked an even larger wave of protests, which brought tens of thousands of citizens onto the streets the next day. As protesters tried to block the side entrances of the parliament police started using water cannons, tear gas, and pepper spray, followed by the use of force and arrests.

Despite the Easter holidays, thousands of people equipped with gas masks continue to gather every evening near the parliament, marching through the capital, and blocking various streets, including the surroundings of Heroes’ Square and the right bank of river Mtkvari where the justice ministry and the Georgian Dream headquarters are located.  

In a statement issued on May 2, US Ambassador Robin Dunnigan revealed that the US side recently “invited senior members of the Georgian Government to engage directly with the most senior leaders in the United States to discuss our strategic partnership and any concerns with US assistance “ but, she noted, “unfortunately, the Georgian side chose not to accept this invitation.” U.S. Ambassador expressed “deep concern” over decisions made in recent weeks by the Georgian government that have “moved the country away from its Euro-Atlantic future.”

In response to Dunnigan’s statement, the foreign ministry stated that the invitation to discuss the strategic partnership extended by the U.S. leaders was made by the U.S. “on the condition that the Georgian Parliament suspending the process debate on the “Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence” prior to the visit” and thus “not in conformity with the spirit of partnership” between the two countries.

In a very Russian manner, the foreign ministry also rebuked French criticism, saying it “lacked objectivity” and reminded that Tbilisi refrained from “making critical statements about France, even when in Paris the law enforcers confronted the protesters with brutal methods, contrary to the universal human rights standards.”

Further cementing the government’s anti-Western stance, Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze lashed out at the May 2 statement by the US State Department Counselor Derek Challet which urged the Georgian government to recommit the country to the Euro-Atlantic future, by explicitly accusing the US of “two revolutionary attempts” in 2020-2023 “supported by former US Ambassador.” He further claimed that had these attempts been successful “the second front line would have been opened in Georgia.”

On May 3, President Salome Zurabishvili vetoed recently passed controversial amendments to the tax code that would make it easier to bring offshore assets into Georgia. The amendments, passed by the ruling Georgian Dream party under a fast-track procedure on April 19, offer a wide range of tax benefits to companies and individuals who decide to move their assets from tax havens to Georgia.


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