In February 2023 the Peoples Power faction of the Georgian Parliament launched the draft law “On Transparency of Foreign Funding”, aimed to expose foreign funding of civil society and brand them as “foreign agent” if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad. Peoples Power is a hard-core anti-western faction of nine MPs that split from the ruling Georgian Dream party, yet maintain support for the government. The Georgian Dream faction has voiced support for the bill, which caused a storm of domestic and international criticism.
The delegates allege the law is inspired on the American Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), but the US has denied the law is related. Many have contended the law is in fact inspired on the Russian foreign agent legislation. More than 300 Georgian civil society organizations have protested in a common letter, and the EU has clearly indicated the law runs against the European ambitions of the country.
On 27 February 2023 a more severe version of the law was proposed by the MPs. The original scope was civil society organizations, but the revised version extends the requirement to register as a “foreign agent” to individual citizens. It also increases the penalties for the failure to fulfill the requirements from administrative fines to maximum five years in prison.
The revised bill is throwing Georgia back to the USSR
This is a level of criminalization of citizens that we haven’t seen in Georgia since the Soviet Union. The revised version of the “foreign agent” law opens the door to political persecution, similarly how Russia persecutes critical citizens with trumped up charges. It is a frontal assault on Georgian society, an assault on the Georgian population who support the European Union integration for more than 80%, and affectively a declaration of war on the democracy of Georgia. It is going back to the USSR. Any version of this legislation will also block any chance to EU candidate status.
It has also become undeniable the Georgian Dream regime has started the preparation for regime survival. This and other steps clearly signal the incumbents are not going to allow to lose power through an open and free democratic election in an open and free society. Georgian Dream has been preparing for a “managed democracy” for a long time, and the foreign agent law fits into this. This is managing and silencing critical watchdogs in the field of democracy and rule of law.
It has become undeniable the Georgian Dream regime has started regime survival
Be reminded that this year it is 20 years ago the arch-rival of Georgian Dream, United National Movement, came to power through the Rose Revolution. The revolution was made possible by public discontent and a strong NGO / Civil Society sector which exposed fraudulent elections. It seems not a coincidence and rather symbolic former president Saakashvili, leader of the Rose Revolution, is dithering away in a clinic, detained by the Georgian authorities. The Georgian government is just as uncompromising to him as to the Georgian society and has declared war on both.