Georgian Premier Vows to Pass Foreign Agent Bill Within Days

(Bloomberg) -- Georgia’s premier says his ruling party will press ahead with its plan to pass a bill against so-called foreign influence in the next two days, despite mass rallies and protests in the country and abroad and criticisms from Western allies.

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“Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow we will pass this law,” Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze said at a briefing in the capital, Tbilisi, adding that polls indicate more than 61% of the population support the measure.

The legislation — also known as the “foreign agent” bill — is aimed at increasing transparency over the funding sources of non-governmental organizations and medias, Kobakhidze said. He also warned demonstrators not to overdo their right to protest.

The US and the European Union have both warned that the ruling Georgian Dream party’s “Kremlin-inspired” legislation. Georgia’s “anti-Western rhetoric” put it on “a precarious trajectory,” a US State Department spokesman said this month.

James C. O’Brien, the US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs James, plans to travel to Tbilisi from Tuesday.

Read more: US Warns Georgia Risks Ties to West Over ‘Kremlin-Inspired’ Law

Kobakhidze’s warning comes a day after tens of thousands of people marched in Tbilisi and assembled in the capital’s Europe Square. Protesters, who’ve been rallying for weeks, plan to gather overnight outside the parliament building in an attempt to prevent lawmakers from entering, while some students and professors at universities plan to strike starting Monday.

Riot police have several times used tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons against those rallying outside parliament. The EU has condemned that use of force as unacceptable.

Kobakhidze, when asked about possible US sanctions, said he didn’t consider it a “serious” threat, and expressed hope that the US will remain a partner of Georgia.

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili, who spoke after the premier, called the bill a “Russian law.”

The law threatens to impose fines and imprisonment of as long as five years on organizations or individuals that receive at least 20% of their income from abroad and fail to register with the government as “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

Georgian Dream, which faces parliamentary elections in October, attempted to pass the same law last year, only to withdraw it following violence between police and protesters.

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