Brawl Erupts In Georgia Parliament

( – The Georgian parliament was engulfed in tumult on Monday when a debate over a contentious new bill was abruptly disrupted by physical violence. The incident erupted as Mamuka Mdinaradze, a prominent member of the ruling Georgian Dream party and a key proponent of the “foreign agents” legislation, was struck in the face by Aleko Elisashvili, an opposition member of parliament.

The altercation was captured on video and later broadcasted by Fox News Digital, showing the 45-year-old Mdinaradze being knocked to the floor amid a chaotic scene where multiple lawmakers exchanged blows.

The legislation at the center of the controversy requires media and non-profit organizations to declare themselves as “foreign-influenced” if over 20% of their funding comes from international sources. This bill mirrors a similar law enforced in Russia and has been decried by critics both within Georgia and internationally as a move reminiscent of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tactics to stifle dissent.

This bill had been introduced before and withdrawn following significant public backlash and mass protests. However, it has resurfaced, with Georgian Dream officials arguing that it is crucial for safeguarding the nation against “pseudo-liberal values” and enhancing transparency. Nonetheless, the bill’s detractors, who have pejoratively dubbed it the “Russian law,” assert that it echoes Kremlin strategies and could hinder Georgia’s aspirations to join the European Union—a process which gained momentum last year when Georgia was granted EU candidate status.

The EU has expressed concerns about the bill, stating it conflicts with the union’s fundamental values of promoting civil society and media freedom—essential elements for a country seeking EU membership. Peter Stano, a spokesperson for the EU’s foreign-policy division, emphasized last week the importance of an enabling environment for civil society organizations and media freedom as pivotal to the democracy and the EU accession process.

In response to the bill, opposition members and critics have warned that its adoption could further complicate Georgia’s relationship with the EU and NATO, despite the Georgian Dream party’s expressed commitment to join both. The party’s actions, however, suggest a contradictory approach, as it simultaneously appears to be fostering closer ties with Russia.

The physical clash in the parliament unfolded against the backdrop of a meeting between Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze and ambassadors from the EU, the U.K., and the U.S., who were discussing the proposed legislation. The brawl has since sparked reactions both domestically and internationally, with footage showing Elisashvili being met with applause from protesters following the incident.

Amidst this political turmoil, President Salome Zourabichvili’s parliamentary representative, Girogi Mskhiladze, announced that the President would veto the bill if passed. However, the effectiveness of this veto could be short-lived as Zourabichvili’s term ends this year. Upcoming constitutional changes dictate that the next president will be selected by an electoral college that includes all members of parliament, potentially complicating the political landscape further if the bill moves forward.