The developments in Georgia have been unpredictable and full of surprises. Recently, the Georgian Dream, along with its division People's Power, passed a law on 'foreign agents' in the first reading. However, after two days of protests on March 8-9, the same members of parliament rejected the law in its second reading due to the mass protests. Despite this, anti-Western rhetoric and threats of repression continued to persist. As a result, many have made various predictions about future events in the country.
Russian-Style Law Aftermath in Georgian Politics
By Malkhaz Matsaberidze
Friday, March 24, 2023
The reasons behind the sudden withdrawal of the draft law on agents have become clearer. Two factors played a significant role: firstly, the scale of the protest movement, which was largely led by youth, could not be quelled despite the authorities' repressive measures. It was apparent that the movement would continue to grow if the law were to pass. Secondly, the West warned that personal sanctions would be imposed on the Georgian Dream leaders and Bidzina Ivanishvili, who was perceived to be the driving force behind the party.
Although the draft law was withdrawn, the comments made by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili and Irakli Kobakhidze indicated that the withdrawal was a tactical retreat. Gharibashvili issued threats of repression against the young protesters, accused the UNM and Western-controlled NGOs of supporting them, and referred to them as anarchists and Satanists. He also warned MEPs to be cautious and claimed that over 100 MEPs were involved in corruption scandals. Furthermore, he reiterated that the West was seeking to involve Georgia in a war. Alt-Info, a far-right activist group, was also activated, and its members removed and burned the EU flag in front of the parliament building. The police made no attempt to stop them. In short, the official rhetoric and actions of the government have remained unchanged, both domestically and internationally.
The opposition forces are trying to use the government's retreat and are trying to put on the agenda the fulfillment of 12 demands of the European Union, for which the Georgian government has given a deadline until autumn. The new leader of the United National Movement Khabeishvili gave the government until April 9 to fulfill these demands and announced a new action on that day.
Adoption of the Agents Law in the first reading and the protest wave caused by this law turned out to be a severe test for the Georgian Dream. Several of their deputies did not show up for the voting, and two did not vote for the bill. There are rumors that 4 or 6 deputies of the Georgian Dream will leave the party.
If this happens, the Georgian Dream will lose its parliamentary majority and it will need the support of the satellite factions in the parliament - European Socialists, Girchi and Citizens. One of the latter two-member factions was elected as public defender exactly at the beginning of the actions.
Bidzina Ivanishvili's personal lawyer Viktor Kifiani suddenly made political statements. On March 10, he criticized Georgian Dream for trying to pass a law on agents, noting that recently the "politics of the struggle for power" overshadowed the "long-term goals and priorities of the country's development."
In response, the representatives of the Georgian Dream announced that Viktor Kipiani is no longer Ivanishvili's lawyer and hinted at the existing conflict between them. However, a number of commentators point out that this may be another political maneuver of Ivanishvili and he is trying to create a new political force based on the few deputies who may leave the Georgian Dream ranks. This hypothetical political force will separate from the Georgian Dream and its current leaders, who have effectively lost the opportunity to dialogue with the West with their anti-Western statements.
In the current situation, they do not exclude the appointment of extraordinary parliamentary elections, which will help Ivanishvili rearrange the political spectrum. Special elections, if called, should be held sometime in October, and this issue should be resolved by May.
In the current situation, they do not exclude the appointment of extraordinary parliamentary elections, which will help Ivanishvili rearrange the political spectrum. Special elections, if called, should be held sometime in October, and this issue should be resolved by May. The charm of such elections for the government is that, unlike the next election in 2024, it will be held not by the proportional system, but by the existing mixed system, when 30 out of 150 parliamentarians will be elected by majority rule.
The charm of such elections for the government is that, unlike the next election in 2024, it will be held not by the proportional system, but by the existing mixed system, when 30 out of 150 parliamentarians will be elected by majority rule. In parliamentary elections, the candidate of the government is practically guaranteed to win.
The Georgian Dream, by introducing the Law on Agents to the political scene and forcibly withdrawing it did a lot of damage to its image and political positions and gave impetus to the processes that could create a new political reality in the near future.