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Georgia parliament votes down controversial foreign agent bill

Georgia’s parliament has voted to drop controversial new legislation, which it earlier approved in an initial reading, sparking an international outcry and mass protests in the Caucasus country.

On Friday, the bill was voted down in a second reading after only one lawmaker backed the legislation that critics had compared to laws in Russia that authorities have leveraged to silence Kremlin’s opponents.

Tens of thousands took to the streets this week after lawmakers moved to introduce the “foreign agent” law. Hundreds of anti-government protesters were also rallying outside the legislature during the vote.

Protesters clashed with police on Tuesday and Wednesday and law enforcement fired water cannons and tear gas at the demonstrators.

The Georgian Dream ruling party backtracked under pressure, announcing on Thursday that it would drop the bill.

But opposition parties said in a joint statement that the protests would continue, pointing to a lack of guarantees “that Georgia is firmly on a pro-Western course.”

READ MORE: Georgia withdraws foreign agent law after days of protests

EU membership at risk

Georgian authorities have faced mounting international criticism over a perceived backsliding on democracy, seriously damaging Tbilisi’s ties with Brussels.

The ruling party has insisted it remains committed to Georgia’s European Union and NATO membership bid, enshrined in the constitution and supported — according to opinion polls — by 80 percent of the population.

Georgia applied for EU membership together with Ukraine and Moldova days after Russia began its military operation in Ukraine in February 2022.

Last June, EU leaders granted formal candidate status to Kiev and Chisinau, but said Tbilisi must implement reforms first.

READ MORE: Thousands march in Tbilisi to protest Georgia’s ‘foreign agents’ law

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