Georgia's parliament. (Credit: DJMX/Wikimedia Commons)

WATCH: Wild Brawl Erupts at Georgian Parliament As Tempers Explode Over ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

You might think our political scene is nuts with our leaders’ often harsh rhetoric and bombastic statements, but it’s rare that our politicians actually come to blows. However, it’s not unheard of in the country of Georgia, and on Monday one member of parliament walked up to the so-called “despatch box” where another unsuspecting MP was speaking and promptly decked him across the chops. 

The stunned expression of the man sitting behind the despatch box tells you just how shocking the moment was.

Opposition leader Aleko Elisashvili was the punch thrower, while the stunned receiver was Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the ruling Georgian Dream party’s parliamentary faction.

The surprise blow led to an all-out insane brawl that has to be seen to be believed:

Reportedly, fights “occasionally” break out on the floor of Georgia’s parliament. The last time we had a full-on conflict on the Senate floor here in the United States was early last century:

On February 22, 1902, John McLaurin, South Carolina’s junior senator, raced into the Senate Chamber and pronounced that state’s senior senator, Ben Tillman, guilty of “a willful, malicious, and deliberate lie.” Standing nearby, Tillman spun around and punched McLaurin squarely in the jaw. The chamber exploded in pandemonium as members struggled to separate both members of the South Carolina delegation. In a long moment, it was over, but not without stinging bruises both to bystanders and to the Senate’s sense of decorum.

That fracas caused Senate lawmakers to make a new rule banning members from insulting each other or calling each other names.

In present-day Georgia, however, tensions are running high over a proposed “foreign agents” law backed by Georgian Dream, which “would oblige civil society organizations receiving more than 20% of annual funding from sources outside Georgia to openly state that they are ‘pursuing the interests of a foreign power'” or face fines. If you think that sounds overbearing, you’re not alone.

Many Georgians along with the Western powers are against the measure and consider it too similar to Russian laws used by the Kremlin to crack down on dissent.

The bill has strained relations with European countries and the United States, who have said they oppose its passage. The European Union, which gave Georgia candidate status in December, has said the move is incompatible with the bloc’s values.
Georgian Dream says it wants the country to join the EU and NATO, even as it has deepened ties with Russia and faced accusations of authoritarianism at home. It says the bill is necessary to combat what it calls “pseudo-liberal values” imposed by foreigners, and to promote transparency.

Thousands of protesters descended on the parliament building Monday night to voice their opposition:

One reason there is such widespread opposition to the law: “the term ‘foreign agent’ is rooted in the Soviet past and suggests such people are traitors and enemies of the state.” And we know what happened to those people.

Russia is deeply disliked in the Eastern European country, according to CNN:

Russia is widely unpopular in Georgia, due to Moscow’s support for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia defeated Georgia in a short war in 2008.

If the foreign agent’s bill clears the legislature’s legal affairs committee, which it likely will given that the committee is controlled by Georgian Dream, it will move on to a first reading in parliament.

Elections will next be held in October, and while Georgian Dream is the most popular party, their numbers have been slipping and they only won by a narrow majority in 2020. Perhaps this Soviet-style law will turn the tide against them. 

In the meantime, MPs speaking in front of parliament would be wise to keep their heads on a swivel.

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