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Georgian lawmakers drop controversial ‘foreign agents’ bill

Georgia’s parliament on Friday dropped plans for a “foreign agents” bill that had triggered a major domestic political crisis and threatened to derail the Caucasus nation’s bid for closer ties with Europe.

Lawmakers voted against the legislation in the second reading on Friday after the ruling Georgian Dream party pulled its support for the bill, according to the Georgian parliament’s website.

Tens of thousands of Georgians had taken to the streets in the capital Tbilisi for three consecutive nights of protest against the initiative, saying the government was trying to take the country in an increasingly authoritarian direction.

Police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the protesters, who had amassed outside parliament in Tbilisi, detaining dozens in the process.

The bill would have required non-government organizations that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register with the country’s Justice Ministry as “foreign agents”.

Opponents said it was reminiscent of a 2012 Russian law that the Kremlin has used extensively to crack down on civil society and independent media. The plans, pushed by the ruling Georgian Dream party, deepened domestic criticism of the government as being too close to Moscow, standing against Georgian public opinion, which is fiercely anti-Russian.

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