Marathoner Marat Zhylanbayev Fined for Premature Campaign in Mazhilis Elections

February 25, 2023

An administrative court in Astana fined independent Mazhilis candidate Marat Zhylanbayev 51,750 tenge ($115) on February 24. He was accused of calling to vote for him before the start of the campaign period on February 18. The civil activist denies the accusations.

The prosecutor of the Almaty metropolitan area applied to the court, who found signs of election campaigning during "monitoring" of the page of the activist in the social network.

- When studying Zhylanbayev's statements, it was found that there was premature electioneering that encouraged voters to vote for his candidacy and to provide financial support," prosecutor Sherkhan Shorabek said in an online court on Friday afternoon. He quoted from a video the activist posted in late January: "We will work and protect only the interests of the people. We will consult with you on social media on live streams about difficult and controversial issues. Support us, and we will win. Go, Kazakhstan!"

Zhylanbayev, who received his certificate of candidacy for the Mazhilis on February 9, does not agree with the prosecutor's claims. Zhylanbayev said in court that he had asked for financial support in order to pay the obligatory election fee of 1,50 thousand tenge for registration as a candidate.

He pointed out that the parties that participated in the previous Mazhilis elections and passed the threshold as parliamentary parties receive funding from the budget and are exempt from paying the election fee.

- They receive money, they do not pay the starting fee. This, I believe, is a barrier for elections to be undemocratic. I'm not an oligarch. That's why I asked for (financial assistance). If I did not say that I needed the start-up fee, then how would I have registered as a candidate? That is why I think: there is no campaigning here," said Zhylanbayev.

- I knew that you would persecute me, and if you further look at my posts, I later deleted this post. Before (the start of the agitation) Amanat posted posters with the candidates, but after the uproar, they removed the posters. But no one punished them. I applied to the prosecutor's office to have Amanat removed from the list for this violation. If they do, then I'll leave too," added the activist.

Judge Ischanova who considered the case agreed with the prosecutor and ruled to impose a fine of 51,750 tenge on the activist.

The court in the capital city fined two more self-nominated activists under Article 102 ("Election Campaigning During its Prohibition") of the Administrative Violations Code. Amangeldy Dzhakhin, a civil activist from Akmola Region, and Zhaslan Aitmaganbetov, a lawyer from Karaganda Region, were fined. All of them denied the charges in court and insisted that communication in social networks was not campaigning.

Earlier this week, the Astana Akimat denied Zhylanbayev to hold an action in support of Ukraine on February 24, the anniversary of Russia's unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine, stating that another event had been agreed for the specified location.

The campaign period officially began on February 18 and will last a month. March 18 is the silence day. Voting is scheduled for March 19. Early parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan are scheduled two months after the early presidential elections, the winner of which the CEC declared the current president, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev.

On February 17 information appeared in the Internet that the Amanat Party posted billboards with images of candidates on the streets of Karaganda. Later there were reports that the party of power laid the responsibility on the advertising agency.