Facing mounting pressure from protesters, Georgia’s governing party said on Thursday that it had decided to withdraw proposed legislation on “foreign agents” that critics said mimicked a Russian law used by the Kremlin to thwart opposition news media and civil society.
The decision came after a second straight night of large protests in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, with riot police officers using tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades to disperse a crowd after midnight. In a statement on Thursday, the police said they had detained 133 protesters on charges of petty hooliganism and disobedience during the two days of protests.
It was not immediately clear whether the governing party intended to scrap the legislation or was merely delaying it to assuage protesters. The party, Georgian Dream, said in a statement that once “the emotional background subsides,” it would work with the public to explain the need to “ensure transparency of foreign influence” in Georgia.
Many opposition members celebrated the decision but vowed to continue protests on Thursday night.
In its statement, the party blamed the political opposition’s “lying machine” for stirring up protests against the legislation by attaching to it the “false label of ‘Russian law.’”
The proposal, which received initial approval in Parliament on Tuesday, would require Georgian nongovernmental organizations and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent their funding from “a foreign power” to register as “agents of foreign influence.” They would face hefty fines if they failed to comply.
The legislation renewed questions about Georgia’s democracy, once a trailblazer among former Soviet republics that has more recently tilted toward pro-Russian authoritarianism under the grip of Georgian Dream.
Members of the Georgian opposition said the law was modeled on a similar piece of legislation introduced in 2012 in Russia that has had a chilling effect on civil society and pro-Western news media outlets. It is widely seen as one of the most heavy-handed tools that President Vladimir V. Putin has used to quash dissent in Russia, and has helped force many activists and media outlets to flee the country.
In Georgia, protesters on the streets chanted, “No to the Russian law,” during the demonstrations.
Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili, who leads the Georgian government and is a member of Georgian Dream, supported the proposed legislation. Georgia’s president, Salome Zourabichvili, who has largely ceremonial powers, denounced the bill, which was also seen as hurting the country’s already stalled efforts to join the European Union.
Last June, the European Union declined to approve Georgia’s candidacy for the bloc. On Thursday, the E.U. delegation to Georgia said that it welcomed the decision to withdraw the law and said it encouraged “all political leaders in Georgia to resume pro-E.U. reforms.”
A country of 3.6 million, Georgia fought a war with Russia after Moscow invaded in 2008. Since then, Moscow’s troops have maintained control over about 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.
Experts disagreed on whether the proposed “foreign agent law” was a sign that Georgia has returned to Russia’s orbit or that the governing party is adopting Mr. Putin’s well-tested methods for staying in power indefinitely.
Mikheil Kechaqmadze, an analyst of Georgian politics, said the governing party’s decision represents a “tactical victory” for the opposition and the country’s civil society. However, he said, it is not certain that “this page with this law is indeed closed.”
“There isn’t much trust between the government and its opponents,” he said.