The tactical victory of the Georgian Democrats did not lead to a change of power. Why?
The Georgian people rejected, acting radically, the pro-Russian bill "On Foreign Influence" adopted by deputies in the first reading. On March 9, after a violent confrontation between demonstrators and police on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi, and critics of the EU and the United States, the ruling political forces announced the withdrawal of the bill. Moscow immediately reacted with a military threat, through the mouth of an official propagandist, the head of RT M.Simonyan.
What did the Georgians get rid of, and what could be the consequences?
The lie of the "Georgian Dream"
The bill has been submitted to the Parliament of Georgia by the political group "The Power of the People", run by the de facto ruler of the country Bidzina Ivanishvili. The ruling party supported the draft law, and propagandists said that their document repeats the American "Law on Registration of Foreign Agents" [FARA]. This law was adopted in the United States in 1938, with the aim of reducing fascist and communist influence. The Georgian opposition accused the authorities of deceiving public opinion in order to painlessly push through the repressive law.
The essence of the expected innovations is that with the adoption of the law, non-governmental organizations and the media, the budget of which consists of at least 20% of foreign capital, will receive the status of a "foreign agent". If the bill is passed, "agents of foreign influence" will have to register in January of each year, large fines will follow for evading registration and submitting incorrect data. The new bill provides for up to five years in prison for non-compliance with its requirements. According to Georgia, by adopting this law, the ruling power wants to protect itself from criticism in the next presidential election. The new law will also affect individuals associated with NGOs - foreign agents.
In Russia, a law with a similar name was adopted. But its essence lies in the fact that all entities with foreign financing are subject to registration, regardless of the purposes for which funds were allocated, even if it is a question of wastewater treatment of the Moskva River. After the adoption of the law on foreign agents, first everyone was registered and declared "foreign agents", and then non-governmental organizations and media operating in the field of human rights, freedom of expression and transparency were banned altogether. In Azerbaijan, an analogue of the same law was adopted in 2014 in the form of amendments and amendments to existing laws, in particular on NGOs. This led to the destruction of NGOs and media independent of the Government.
President Salome Zurabishvili, speaking at the UN on March 7 at the political forum for gender equality, confirmed that she categorically opposes the planned adoption of a law on foreign agents in Georgia.
"The bill submitted by some groups in my country, which will restrict the freedom of non-governmental organizations], will be extremely harmful for the democratic transformation of our society," the politician said.
Former Georgian Defense Minister, Chairman of the Civic Idea NGO Tina Khidasheli, in an interview with “Netgazeti”, explained: FARA focuses on the content of the work performed by a legal entity and on the level at which a legal entity operating in the United States promotes the interests of another state. At the same time, FARA is not focused directly on the identity of the legal entity. This is reflected in the legislation as follows:
A person/organization must act directly on the order (contract) of a foreign entity, [participate] in the political process promoting its interests, whether it is a state or non-state entity. There is no difference who is the subject, it can be an individual or a legal entity, commercial or non—commercial, profitable, or non—profitable - it does not matter at all," Khidasheli explains. If such actions are not seen in the activities of the organization, then the obligation to register does not apply to it.
According to Tina Khidasheli, the main difference between FARA and the original bill "Forces of the People" are its "target subjects", which, according to her ex-minister, makes this bill discriminatory. The initial draft law "The Power of the People" declares the media and non—governmental organizations "foreign agents" regardless of their goals and scope of activity, while FARA focuses on the content of the contract - to what extent and in what way a particular entity is a conductor of the interests of a foreign state. A similar law in Hungary was recognized by the Court of the European Union as violating European law.
The main task of the bill of the members of the parliamentary majority in Georgia is to create problems for non-governmental and media organizations funded from Western funds, because almost all critical non-governmental organizations in the country are funded by the West," Khidasheli explained. The opposition did not calm down and put forward new demands.
The victory of the Georgian opposition in the dispute over the bill inspired it to continue the struggle for power. Demands have been made for the abolition of compulsory military service. At a protest rally in the center of Tbilisi, on March 10, political demands were made — the resignation of the government and the holding of early elections.
Will Georgians succeed in defeating the "shadow king" B. Ivanishvili again? In an interview with Turan, Tbilisi political analyst Gela Vasadze recalled the "wild fakes" refuted by reality. It was said about the rallies in Tbilisi that mainly Ukrainians participated in them, and the protesters were dispersed by Armenian special forces.
Vasadze expects Russia's influence on Georgia to remain. Russian business will remain, Russian special services will activate their agents and proxies to create hotbeds of destabilization in Georgia. Russian propaganda is becoming more active, on the one hand threatening war, on the other proving that Georgia has no friend better than Russia. And the Georgian government will look for new schemes to make money on Russia and try to convince the West of its commitment to the values of freedom and at the same time not to fulfill the twelve points of the EU conditions for Georgia to receive candidate status.
Is it possible to radicalize the Russian attitude towards Georgia, the annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by the Russian Federation as revenge for Georgia's refusal to curb Western "foreign agents"?
A well-known political commentator in Georgia, Tengiz Ablotiya, does not expect serious radicalization of Russia's hostile attitude. "We could talk about this if the government changed, and the opposition, more negatively disposed towards Russia, came to the place of the Georgian Dream. But for now, the "Dream" is in power. The process of tightening the screws had to be temporarily suspended and now they will try to act more subtly, the anti-Western rhetoric will not completely disappear, of course, but it will soften," Ablotiya said.
"The Dream won't go against Russia anyway. So, Moscow has no reason to be seriously angry yet. Yes, it didn't work out, Moscow would prefer that the authorities strangle the opposition in blood, but so far nothing radical has happened. While everything is ahead, the real fight will be in the fall of 2024, at the elections. Everything will be solved there," Ablotia believes.
He does not expect Abkhazia and South Ossetia to join the Russian Federation for the reasons outlined above. "In addition, Abkhazia itself is not torn and will protest in every possible way, but only accept microscopic South Ossetia - who needs it?".
Can Ivanishvili's power somehow come to an end? The expert replied: This is possible only in 2024, as a result of the elections. Now no one has a practical goal to overthrow the government, despite the existence of such statements. The opposition is not ready now, and if elections are scheduled tomorrow, it will lose them because the government has its iron 40-45%, and the opposition votes are divided, and therefore, even having received more power in total, most parties will not enter parliament due to the 4% barrier.
"This is a serious problem that greatly simplifies the life of the authorities, but there's nothing you can do about it – the opposition is what it is, there is no other. So at least Ivanishvili's party has another year and a half left," Tengiz Ablotiya explained.
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