Breaking: Parliament Overrides President’s Veto on Foreign Agents Law, Adopts the Agents’ Law

On May 28, at 7 p.m., the ruling Georgian Dream majority overrode the president’s veto on the foreign agents’ law with 66 votes in favor and 0 against. The law was subsequently voted for with 84 votes in favor and 4 against, meaning that it’s only a matter of days before the widely opposed bill is signed into law. Most of the opposition MPs had left the Parliament building to join the protesters prior to the voting.

The vote, widely seen as a “treason” and the most shameful move in the history of independent Georgia, followed hours of deliberation in the plenary hall as protesters gathered outside the parliament. The ruling party proceeded with the veto override despite growing and sustained local opposition, the announcement of individual sanctions by the U.S., and warnings from Brussels that passage of the law would impede Georgia’s European integration.

The law is feared to crack down on Georgia’s vibrant civil society and freedom of expression and thwart Georgia’s decades-long dream of joining the EU, several months after the country was granted candidate status. It is also expected to isolate the country from the West and bring it back under Russian influence.

In the coming days, the bill on “Transparency of Foreign Influence,” also known as the foreign agents law or the “Russian Law,” will be sent to President Salome Zurabishvili, who will have five days to sign it. If she refuses to sign – which is the most likely scenario – it will be up to Parliament Speaker Shalva Papuashvili to sign the bill into law. Papuashvili has been an ardent supporter of the controversial law and will almost certainly be the one to put it into effect.

The law will then enter into force immediately, but its key provisions will not take effect until 60 days after the law is enacted. Within a month after the 60-day period, which will be weeks before the October parliamentary elections, foreign-funded NGOs and media outlets will have to register as “organizations pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

If the organization refuses to register as such – and many have pledged not to – the law allows the Ministry of Justice to conduct regular “monitoring” and impose hefty fines. The vague provisions on the authorities’ monitoring discretion have raised concerns that it could be used to cripple the work of key NGOs, including election monitors, during elections. The law also allows the authorities to demand the most sensitive personal data from both organizations and individuals and imposes fines on those who do not comply.

As the GD passes the law against the threat of sanctions, concerns are growing that the move could lead to economic insecurity in the country. For more than a week, the National Bank of Georgia has been struggling to maintain the stability of the Georgian currency as the lari continues to depreciate amid panic. Various business representatives, including those known to support the ruling party, have spoken out against the passage of the law.

What was written in the President’s Veto?

In the so-called “veto” procedure, the President does not sign the bill into law, but sends it back to the Parliament with “reasoned objections” and proposed amendments.

President Salome Zurabishvili vetoed the law on May 18, earlier than expected, in a move likely intended to thwart attempts by the ruling Georgian Dream party to save face by negotiating changes with the West as part of the president’s proposed amendments. The president called such attempts “manipulations”, and refused to “play this game” with the ruling party and “embellish the law”.

Instead, in her reasoned objections Zurabishvili called the law “unconstitutional, that is, non-Georgian, non-European and non-democratic,” and said that the law “thoroughly mirorred the spirit of the Russian law.” The only amendment proposed by the President was the provision that the law would remain in force for only one day after it came into effect.

Below is the list of lawmakers who voted in favor the foreign agents law:

  1. Giorgi Barvenashvili
  2. Gia Benashvili
  3. Irakli (Dachi) Beraia
  4. Ramina Beradze
  5. Maia Bitadze
  6. Anzor Bolkvadze
  7. Eliso Bolkvadze
  8. Maka Botchorishvili
  9. Elguja Gotsiridze
  10. Beka Davituliani
  11. Aleksandre Dalakishvili
  12. Zaur Dargali
  13. Isko Daseni
  14. Zaal Dugladze
  15. Gocha Enukidze
  16. Giorgi Volski
  17. Irma Zavradashvili
  18. Irakli Zarkua
  19. Archil Talakvadze
  20. Edisher Toloraia
  21. Rati Ionatamishvili
  22. Davit Kacharava
  23. Vladimer Kakhadze
  24. Giorgi Kakhiani
  25. Kakha Kakhishvili
  26. Paata Kvizhinadze
  27. Baia Kvitsiani
  28. Irakli Kirtskhalia
  29. Sumbat Kiureghian
  30. Levan Kobiashvili
  31. Resan Kontselidze
  32. Mariam Lashkhi
  33. Zaza Lominadze
  34. Daviti Matikashvili
  35. Samvel Manukian
  36. Levan Machavariani
  37. Levan Mgaloblishvili
  38. Irakli Mezurnishvili
  39. Gogi Meshveliani
  40. Irakli Medzmariashvili
  41. Savalan Mirzoevi
  42. Givi Mikanadze
  43. Imeda Nikuradze
  44. Anton Obolashvili
  45. Beka Odisharia
  46. Anri Okhanashvili
  47. Shalva Papuashvili
  48. Gela Samkharauli
  49. Dimitri Samkharadze
  50. Nikoloz Samkharadze
  51. Viktor Sanikidze
  52. Davit Songhulashvili
  53. Giorgi Sosiashvili
  54. Aleksandre Tabatadze
  55. Nodar Turdeladze
  56. Irakli Kadagishvili
  57. Levan Karumadze
  58. Merabi Kvaraia
  59. Salome Kurasbediani
  60. Aluda Ghudushauri
  61. Tengiz Sharmanashvili
  62. Irakli Shatakishvili
  63. Giorgi Chakvetadze
  64. Goderdzi Chankseliani
  65. Ketevani Charkviani
  66. Vasil Chogogidze
  67. Giorgi Tsagareishvili
  68. Bezhan Tsakadze
  69. Nino Tsilosani
  70. Khatia Tsilosani
  71. Genrieta Tsitsava
  72. Givi Chichinadze
  73. Shota Khabareli
  74. Giorgi Khakhubia
  75. Salome Jinjolava
  76. Guram Macharashvili
  77. Zaal Mikeladze
  78. Eka Sepashvili
  79. Sozar Subari
  80. Mikheil Kavelashvili
  81. Dimitri Khundadze
  82. Viktor Japaridze
  83. Avtantil Enukidze
  84. Pridon Injia

NOTE: This news was updated on May 28, at 10:00 p.m. to include the list of 84 MPs who voted for the Foreign Agents Law.

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This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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