canada africa partner reservation Georgian demonstrators prepare for new demonstration | The Guardian Nigeria News

Georgian demonstrators prepare for new demonstration | The Guardian Nigeria News

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Georgian protesters prepared for a late-night rally on Sunday, vowing not to give up their fight against the ruling party’s Russian-style foreign agent bill, a day after a massive protest in Tbilisi.

Demonstrations have gripped the tiny Caucasus country for weeks over the draft law, which has been dubbed the “Russian law” because it mirrors repressive legislation used by the Kremlin to silence critics.

Powerful billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili and his Georgian Dream party have said NGOs pose a threat to Georgian sovereignty. They accuse them of plotting a revolution and working on behalf of foreign governments.

In a shocking move in early April, Georgian Dream brought back the bill, a year after a huge backlash forced authorities to drop it.

It requires NGOs that receive at least 20 percent of foreign funding – which covers virtually the entire sector – to register as agents of “foreign influence.”

Protesters say the bill proves the government is derailing Georgia’s long-held ambition to join the EU, backed by the vast majority of the population.

They accuse the government of bringing the country back into Moscow’s fold.

The protests, led mainly by students and Gen Zers, are heavy on anti-Kremlin rhetoric, with thousands carrying EU and Georgian flags.

As tens of thousands stormed Europe Square in Tbilisi on Saturday evening, speakers called on them to also gather outside parliament at 10pm the next day.

MPs from the ruling party aim to vote on the bill for its third reading this week.

The impasse over the bill has led to one of the most unpredictable and tense political moments in Georgia in recent years.

Standoff

Neither the protesters nor the government appear willing to back down as tensions run high.

“I think they are doing their maximum at the moment and people will do the same,” 21-year-old student Anri Papidze told AFP during the Saturday protest.

“I am ready to fight until victory.”

Authorities also appear intent on pushing through the bill, with officials issuing scathing statements against protesters on social media in recent days.

Leading NGO activists have reported being harassed by unknown people in recent days, with some having their homes and offices plastered with posters reading “foreign agent.”

Saturday’s protest was peaceful, with rock music blasting from a stage, but police forcibly dispersed demonstrators in late April.

Many expect a crackdown if protesters try to stay outside parliament at night.

Georgian Dream has portrayed the bill as a matter of “transparency” – saying it is merely an administrative issue.

But the NGO sector, the opposition and protesters say the government’s real goals are control and getting rid of critical voices.

They also say the bill is timely to prepare for fall elections.