Georgia's prime minister says 'Russian law' necessary for peace as protests continue

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - TBLISI — Georgia's Prime Minister has said the passage of a controversial foreign influence bill, which has sparked mass protests around the country, "creates strong guarantees of long-term peace and tranquility" in the country.

Irakli Kobakhidze said the law will help to overcome political polarisation, which he called "a necessary condition for Georgia’s integration into the European Union."

"When the political opposition convinces its supporters of something and then they go out on the streets, this is an absolutely normal and healthy event, but the political minority cannot in any case force the political majority to accept or not accept a decision that serves to strengthen the state interests of Georgia," he said.

The law requires media and non-governmental organizations to register as "pursuing the interests of a foreign power" if they receive more than 20% of their funding from abroad.

But opponents of the bill, who have dubbed it the 'Russian law' because of similar legislation enacted by the Kremlin, say it undermines democracy and could derail the country’s chances of joining the EU.

Georgia has been an official candidate country since December last year and support for membership among the population is high, with the National Democratic Institute putting it at 81%.

"Basically the main idea is that the Georgian government, which can now be openly called the Russian government, decided to switch the direction of foreign policy towards Russia and they basically copied the same laws that Putin introduced, the so-called foreign agent bill. And as you can see there is mass protests going on against that," said former president of the Georgian Bank, Irakli Kadagizde.

Protests against the bill have been ongoing for weeks with protesters blocking the main highway in Tbilisi on Tuesday night after some clashed with riot police outside parliament earlier in the day.

There's also been opposition outside Georgia. The White House said it was "deeply troubled" that parliament had passed the bill with the State Department even warning of possible sanctions. The UK, Germany, Italy and France have also all urged Georgia to withdraw it.

Another vocal critic is Georgia’s President Salome Zourabichvili, who has said she will veto the bill. However, the ruling party can override that veto if it can gather 76 votes to pass it. — Euronews

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