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Georgian parliament speaker vows to override presidential veto of divisive law

Tbilisi, Georgia — The speaker of Georgia’s parliament pledged Monday to override a presidential veto of controversial legislation that has sparked weeks of massive protests from critics who see it as a threat to democratic freedoms and the country’s aspirations to join the European Union.

The legislation, passed by Parliament earlier this month, requires media outlets, non-governmental organizations and other non-profit organizations to register as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power” if they receive more than 20%. of their financing from abroad.

The opposition denounced the bill as “Russian law” because Moscow uses similar legislation to crack down on independent news media, nonprofits and activists critical of the Kremlin. The government says it is necessary to stem what it sees as harmful foreign influence on the country’s politics and prevent unspecified foreign actors from trying to destabilize it.

Georgian President Salome Zurabichvili, increasingly at odds with the ruling Georgian Dream party, vetoed the law on Saturday, but the ruling party has enough of a majority to override a presidential veto.

Shalva Papuashvili, Speaker of Parliament and member of the Georgian Dream, told reporters on Monday that “of course, Parliament will override this veto.” He said Parliament would hold a session for this purpose next week.

The bill that sparked protests this year is almost identical to the one that Georgian Dream was forced to withdraw last year after street protests. New protests have rocked Georgia for weeks, with demonstrators clashing with police, who used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

The bill also drew criticism from European Union officials. In a joint statement on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed their “deep regret” over “the decision of the Georgian government and the ruling party to deviate from this path by acting against our European values common areas and aspirations of the Georgian people. , as by the adoption of the law known as “on the transparency of foreign influence”.

“Georgia’s European path has been charted – but the speed and direction of progress depends on Georgia,” read the statement posted on Facebook.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said on Monday that more than 60% of the population supported this measure and that “the common sense of the majority of the population should prevail”, without however specifying where this figure came from or offering proof to support this assertion.

He also accused Zurabichvili of “blocking any space for discussion.”

“Our proposal to international partners was to use the veto procedure to reconcile positions, but Salome Zurabichvili abruptly vetoed the law, thus unfortunately blocking any space for healthy discussion,” Kobakhidze said.

ABC News

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