Vice PM accuses NGO of links with “radical and extremist” opposition after it cancels university cooperation citing Gov’t “attacks”

Georgian Vice Prime Minister Thea Tsulukiani on Monday said the Franklin Club was affiliated with the UNM opposition. Photo: Culture Ministry press office, 27 Mar 2023 - 18:50, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Vice Prime Minister Thea Tsulukiani on Monday accused the Franklin Club, a domestic non-governmental organisation promoting “classical liberal and libertarian values”, of affiliation with “radical and extremist” political parties in the country, after the group announced cancellation of its educational cooperation with University of Georgia citing “attacks” by Government members.

In comments following a Cabinet meeting, Tsulukiani said she was “sceptical” about the Club’s educational purposes and pointed to “close links” between some in its management with the United National Movement opposition party. 

I do not think the ideological work on youth in the Club could be related to even a single value of [Benjamin] Franklin”, Tsulukiani said in reference to the American statesman the organisation is named after.

The Vice PM, who also serves as the Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth Affairs, claimed UNM and its affiliates could use the youth involved in the Club for their attempts to “spark unrest in the country” during next year’s Parliamentary elections with the goal of overthrowing the Government. 

Tsulukiani’s comments come after the Club last week suspended its cooperation with the University in an announcement that alleged “entirely unjustified attacks” by Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, ruling Georgian Dream party Chair Irakli Kobakhidze and “other influential figures” against it.

The Government accused the opposition of organising "violent rallies" in Tbilisi earlier this month. Photo: Nino Alavidze/

The Club said it was being used for attacks on the University, which it called “one of the large free spaces outside the control of the Government’s propaganda”, adding the educational institution was “important for saving democracy in the country”.

Its statement also stressed the cooperation between the two sides had been a “purely educational” matter, and accused those in power of launching their criticism of the organisation to “prevent us from providing independent education to the young people”.

Garibashvili and GD officials earlier this month accused UNM of staging the “violent protests” that saw demonstrators clash with law enforcement in Tbilisi during their rallies against the proposed bill on foreign transparency influence, which had been brought forward by former members of the ruling party.

They claimed the opposition party’s “radical efforts to trigger unrest in the country” during the demonstrations had been backed by the Franklin Club and other “affiliated movements and parties”.

After the recall of the bill - which proposed registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derived more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad - Kobakhidze alleged the Club was a “foreign agent”.

The party Chair highlighted the NGO’s funding by the Atlas Network - a United States-based organisation promoting “individual liberty, property rights, limited government, and free markets” across the world through its partner groups. The Club lists the Network as its “partner” on its official website.