Ruling party official cites ensuring safety of protesters in recall of transparency bill

Mdinaradze said risks to safety of protesters could have increased had the demonstrations gone on. Photo: Georgian Dream Press Office, 09 Mar 2023 - 16:38, Tbilisi,Georgia

Mamuka Mdinaradze, the Executive Secretary of the ruling Georgian Dream party, on Thursday said the party had used the principle of ensuring safety of those protesting against the bill on transparency of foreign influence as the “main starting point” in withdrawing the legislative initiative.

Mdinaradze said risks to safety of protesters could have increased had the demonstrations gone on.

The main starting point was to make sure we did not put at risk the health and life of even one person, even one child who was there [at protest rallies]. As it turned out, risks of this could have increased in relation to many factors, on many grounds”, he said.

“Therefore, we made it our first priority to put everything aside. This was the main red line [...] [based on which] we did not risk the life and health of a single young person [by withdrawing the bill]”, he continued.

The GD official confirmed the bill, which passed its first hearing at the Parliament on Tuesday, would fail at the second hearing as prescribed by procedures for withdrawn legislation. 

The Speaker of the Georgian Parliament also sent a letter to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for withdrawal of the bill from the body’s consideration. Georgian authorities had sent the draft law to the Commission for its opinion.

The ruling party on Thursday said it was “unconditionally” withdrawing the controversial bill, which had been proposed by the People's Power movement and met by a backlash by domestic opposition, civil sector and diplomatic representations in the country.

Georgian Dream cited the interest of maintaining domestic “tranquillity”, the country’s development and its European integration aspirations as factors behind the decision.

A joint statement by the Political Council of the GD, members of the Parliamentary majority and the People’s Power movement - composed of former members of the ruling party who proposed the bill last month - said the legislative piece had caused controversy in the public, adding restoring “peace, tranquillity and economic development”, as well as Georgia's progress on its European integration path, was a priority in the move.

The draft law, which involved registration of non-commercial legal entities and media outlets in the country as “agents of foreign influence” if they derive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad, passed its first hearing at the Parliament earlier this week, with its discussions accompanied by heated exchanges and clashes between MPs, as well as public rallies outside the legislative body.

Its proposal was met with criticism by domestic actors and Georgia’s international partners, with Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on Tuesday saying it was “incompatible” with EU values and standards.

The United Nations Office in Georgia said adoption of the bill would “risk impeding the work of civil society and media and the essential contributions they make to Georgian democracy”.