scroll to top arrow or icon

Georgia’s government is ramming through “Russian law”

Demonstrators hold a rally to protest against a bill on "foreign agents" in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 13, 2024.

Demonstrators hold a rally to protest against a bill on "foreign agents" in Tbilisi, Georgia, May 13, 2024.

REUTERS/Irakli Gedenidze

Police in Tbilisiviolently arrested at least 20 people on Monday at peaceful protests outside parliament, where the inflammatory “foreign agents” law was being rushed through committee. Having passed its third reading, the bill will go to a final vote Tuesday. It now seems all but inevitable to become law, opening questions about how far the ruling Georgian Dream party will go to cement its control.

Discipline has been the watchword of the protesters, even as they face growing repression from authorities. On Saturday, at least50,000 people (some local sources say200,000) marched through the capital despite the pouring rain, waving Georgian, EU, and some Ukrainian flags while chanting pro-democracy slogans. Using force, police dispersed some who attempted to camp overnight on Sunday, with multiple videos shared on social media depicting vicious beatings.

Georgia-born Eurasia Group analyst Tinatin Japaridze says that once the bill fully becomes law, the focus will shift to general elections scheduled for October. The young people who believe this law willthrottle civil society and rob them of a European-aligned future seem likely to stay on the streets even after the bill passes. “The fight will shift to be about survival: the survival of Georgia’s democracy for the protesters, and the survival of the Georgian Dream party for the government,” she says.

Similar debates over aligning more with the East vs. West have been at the crux of politics for many former Eastern Bloc countries. In some places, like Ukraine in 2014, and Georgia itself in 2003, popular protests have led to more democratic, EU-leaning administrations. In others, like Belarus in 2006 and 2020, the government crushed unrest with force and entrenched a regime servile to Moscow.

We’re watching for how well the protesters preserve their momentum over the next few months, and how the splintered opposition parties handle potential coalition talks. If they can hold together through the autumn, Japaridze says, Georgian Dream might learn its lesson at the ballot box.


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter