UPDATED: Georgia’s parliament drops ‘foreign agents’ bill

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TBILISI, March 10 (Reuters) – Georgia’s parliament on Friday dropped plans for a “foreign agents” bill that had triggered a major domestic political crisis and threatened to derail the Caucasus nation’s bid for closer ties with Europe.

Lawmakers voted against the legislation in the second reading on Friday after the ruling Georgian Dream party pulled its support for the bill, according to the Georgian parliament’s website.

Tens of thousands of Georgians had taken to the streets in the capital Tbilisi for three consecutive nights of protest against the initiative, saying the government was trying to take the country in an increasingly authoritarian direction.

Police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to disperse the protesters, who had amassed outside parliament in the Tbilisi, detaining dozens in the process.

The bill would have required non-government organisations that receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register with the country’s Justice Ministry as a Foreign Agent.

Opponents said it was reminiscent of a 2012 Russian law that the Kremlin has used extensively to crack down on civil society and independent media. The plans, pushed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, deepened domestic criticism of the government as being too close to Moscow, standing against Georgian public opinion, which is fiercely anti-Russian.

Supporters of Georgian opposition parties take part in the opposition rally n front of the Parliament building in Tbilisi, Georgia, 09 March 2023. The Georgian authorities have withdrawn from the parliament the law on foreign agents, which provoked mass protests in the country. In Georgia, on the night of March 7-8, mass protests began against the law on foreign agents. The opposition promises to continue protests until the authorities release all those detained at rallies against the law on foreign agents. EPA-EFE/ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE

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