11.04.2024 Author: Henry Kamens

Political Party Antics in Georgia & Change in Wording of Draft Law on Foreign Agents

Political Party Antics in Georgia & Change in Wording of Draft Law on Foreign Agents

Here we go again, all the three- and four-letter agencies have been at work for years in Georgia, relatively in the open, especially those funded by USAID, the US State Department, the EU, and a list of foreign intelligence services. The list goes on and on, and the purpose is clear, to destabilize Georgia’s fledgling democracy under the guise of helping it. The more they attack the proposed draft legislative act that will force NGOs to publicly declare the source of their funding, the more it seems like a good ideal – as it proves why such legislation is needed.

The bill’s authors claim the necessity to adhere to the requirements of transparency in the activities of agents of foreign influence. They claim the legislation does not restrict the activity of the entity registered as an agent of foreign influence, but simply serves to keep their sources of funding in the open.

And it does not stop there!

That is only for starters: I remember in high school, in typing class writing, long before the days of the internet, ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party!’ However, the Alt-Info, party no longer exists, at least its status is pending appeal to the courts. With the up-and-coming political party in the country of Georgia being recently banned from the election process—this action seems to have really upset a lot of people.

Some Georgians are saying that this is worse than during the time of Saakashvili. I am sure they are creaming themselves over at the US Embassy—and patting each other on the back.

There is word going around that the recently appointed US ambassador to Georgia, Robert Dunnigan, made a visit to the Georgian Electoral commission shortly before their surprisingly quick decision to ban Alt-Info from standing in the upcoming elections.

Too early to celebrate

This might be a massive miscalculation on the part of the ruling party. GD has been trying to woo the Conservative vote, and AI was a threat to that. But it is a move that could seriously backfire. I am sure that the party is staying banned, despite the official statements that they can appeal the decision. Alt-Info has lots of supporters, and banning it serves both the interests of the current government and the West, killing two birds with one stone. It is ironic that the West by being so much against it turned an alternative media outlet into the Georgian Conservative Movement and laid the foundation for a political party.

 Western values in action!

Now they are blocked from the elections and not allowed to stand candidates—banned as a political party.  Most definitely, you can see how the political sands are shifting, with the controversial foreign agents’ legislation being reintroduced by the ruling Georgian Dream party to keep track of the money flow, mostly from Western governments and organizations.

The proposed legislation had been shelved earlier when all the Western NGOs and foreign embassies closed ranks with opposition political parties, screaming foul over it – trying to label it as the “Russian law.”

But they fail to mention in their attacks that the US and most countries in the world have the exact or similar law on their books, and for the same purpose, to track outside influence by knowing how the money flows and is spread about.

It should also be noted that the proposed Georgian law is a word for word translation of the US FARA act, the only difference being that in the US law, the President has the right to grant exemptions, while in the Georgian law that right is given to the Prime Minister.

This Georgian draft legislation comes shortly after the Kyrgyz Republic’s President signed a similar law introducing restrictive regulations on non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and carry out broadly defined “political activities.”

Perfect Storm Brewing 4 a Show Down!

And this perfect political storm is just starting to brew—the clouds come together, the perfect junction, and as I write this: tomorrow, the anniversary of the April 9th massacre in 1989—when Soviet forces cracked down on Georgian protestors, resulted in scores of Georgians being killed, was committed as a way to distract from and derail the political reforms which had started in Moscow, as some in the USSR, such as Gorbachev, were trying to loosen up on the tight controls held over the people of the USSR.

May not history repeat itself, with blood prior to the October elections? The ruling Georgian Dream party’s recent reintroduction into the Georgian parliament of a proposed “foreign agents” law previously shelved after mass protests last year raises many questions.

Now, with a new name, it is worth nothing that last year Georgia’s ruling party told it had dropped a bill on “foreign agents” after nights of violent protests against what opponents said was a Russian-inspired authoritarian shift that imperilled hopes of the country joining the European Union. However, it was the West which had organized and paid for the protest, funded many of the NGOs, and even organizing them. History is now repeating itself, and this in itself justifies why such a law is needed.

Follow the Money

“Georgian authorities” revival of a bill that would identity funding sources for NGOs, and label outside funded media outlets as being foreign-controlled has, needless to say, caused panic in both those organisations and their masters in a number of western embassies and capitals. This is especially threatening to the EU and US, as they claim it is ‘’utterly incompatible’’ with Georgia’s claim of having European democratic standards and seeking membership, which is the height of hypocrisy given their own laws on the matter. Surely, a case of “Do as I say, but not as I do”, which is only further poisoning the attitude of working-class Georgians against the west.

Transparency of Foreign Influence

It is understood that the timing is related to the upcoming October elections. The government is fully aware that ‘certain powers’ are trying to rig the parliamentary elections to their advantage. The draft law, “On transparency of foreign influence,” would require non-profits and media outlets receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to join a registry and provide detailed annual financial accounts.

The reaction has been swift, the EU claims that it is supporting Georgia in its reform efforts, responding to the country’s own aspirations for continued development and EU membership, as enshrined in Georgia’s Constitution. However, at the same time claims that the draft law’s adoption would be inconsistent with these aspirations and with EU norms and values, which is ironic, given the EU’s own program to introduce such a law

The ruling Georgian Dream party stated that the draft law presented in parliament this year is identical to the one proposed last year, except for one change. Instead of using the term ‘foreign agent,’ the new version uses the phrase ‘an organization carrying out the interests of a foreign power’.

It is interesting, with all the rigmarole over political parties and laws being introduced in Georgia, at the timing. Elections are banned in Ukraine, Churches being physically attacked, vandalized, and a genocide going on in Gaza, but now a piece of draft legislation in one of the last friends that the collective West has left in the region is being targeted.

It is not hard to come up with some answer, as what is happening in Georgia, and Armenia to a lesser degree, is mostly because of outside funding and meddling, mostly from the west. These two regional countries provide the last strategic depth for US and EU aspirations in the region. Even Turkey can no longer be depended upon in a push come to shove situation, as there too much outside influence had more than a slight impact on recent regional elections.

At least now, based on the reaction to the proposed legislation, locally, regionally and internationally, it will be easy to find the list of entities, journalists, NGOs and activities funded by such money. This is, of course, what the US and EU are afraid of. Support for EU integration has been steadily declining for the last ten years as more and more of their LGBTQ policies are pushed by the embassies, and it is fairly certain that if unpopular NGOs like Tbilisi Pride are forced to reveal how much money they are receiving, the public reaction will be negative at best.

Finally, I wonder if banning the Alt-Info is more related to showing that Georgia is not allowing an allegedly pro-Russian party to freely operate, so to appease some EU and US interests, at least for now.  The government of Georgia understands that banning it will not stand up in court once any shortcomings in party rules and its registration are resolved.


Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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