Georgia’s ruling party said it will drop a controversial bill on “foreign agents” after two days of violent protests.
The ruling party, named Georgian Dream, said in a statement it would “unconditionally withdraw the bill we supported without any reservations”.
It cited the need to reduce “confrontation” in society but denounced “lies” told about the bill by the “radical opposition”.
The bill would have required Georgian media and non-governmental organisations receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face fines.
Critics said the draft bill represented an authoritarian shift to the right and compared it with a 2012 Russian law that has been used to clamp down on dissent.
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili said she would veto the bill if it crossed her desk.
Georgia, which became an independent state after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, was not granted candidate status for EU membership last year, with the bloc citing stalled political and judicial reforms.
Supporters of the membership campaign were angered by the bill, claiming it would complicate Georgia’s path to joining.
Writing on Twitter after the decision to withdraw the bill, the EU’s delegation to Georgia said: “We welcome [the] announcement by the ruling party to withdraw draft legislation on ‘foreign influence’.
“We encourage all political leaders in Georgia to resume pro-EU reforms, in an inclusive and constructive way.”
Georgia’s opposition has long criticised the ruling party for what it sees as excessive closeness to Moscow.
A 2012 law on foreign agents in Russia was passed after a wave of public protests against Putin’s return to presidency. The law required organisations engaging in political activity and receiving funding from abroad to register as foreign agents.
The Georgian government said its own legislation was modelled on US foreign agent laws that have been in place since the 1930s.
The Georgian Dream party previously said it was necessary to unmask critics of the Georgian Orthodox Church – one of the country’s most powerful institutions.
Parliament initially approved the bill, but it sparked mass protests in the capital Tbilisi as tens of thousands of people gathered outside parliament to protest the bill on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons to disperse the crowds as some protestors threw petrol bombs and stones.
Georgia’s interior ministry said 77 people were arrested.