Fight Breaks Out During Remarks About Bill in Georgia Parliament

Fight Breaks Out During Remarks About Bill in Georgia Parliament

( – A frank discussion on the floor of Georgia’s Parliament (the country, not the US state) turned into an all-out brawl involving multiple people on April 15. The fight began shortly after Dream Party faction leader Mamuka Mdinaradze stepped up to the podium to talk about a controversial new bill aimed at restricting the influence of foreign agents. Moments later, MP Aleko Elisashvili came out of left field and struck him in the face.

The parliamentary proceedings instantly devolved into all-out chaos, with lawmakers swarming the floor en masse while screaming at one another and throwing papers. Several individuals came to blows, often fighting over and around colleagues who were desperately trying to restore order. Others just did their best to stay out of the way.

Georgian lawmakers have a growing reputation for fighting over contentious issues. In fact, fights broke out about the same law during a meeting on March 6.

The Dream Party, the United National Movement, European Georgia, and a long list of civil advocacy groups remain deeply divided over the foreign agents law, often referred to colloquially as the “Russian bill.” This legislation would require any organization receiving more than 20% of its budget from foreign sources to register as a “foreign agent.”

Proponents of the bill, including the Dream Party, call it a vital first step toward combating “pseudo-liberal values.” They feel it will enhance transparency while simultaneously bolstering national security at a time when international threats are on the rise.

Critics, including several human rights organizations, argue that the law too closely mimics restrictions signed into law by Russian PM Vladimir Putin in 2012. They argue that these guidelines exist only to limit civil society freedoms, control the media, and stifle dissent.

In Russia, any organization receiving support from outside the country must register as a foreign agent with the state. It doesn’t matter how much or how little support they receive; even a few cents is enough. There are no exceptions to the rules in place, even for religious entities, charities, NPOs, and humanitarian organizations.

The current text of Georgia’s proposed bill mandates that entities only need to register as foreign agents if they receive over 20% of their funding from other nations or foreign nationals. This more forgiving reporting threshold would theoretically provide leeway to organizations that accept donations or fundraise on a global level.

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