The presidential campaign began in Kazakhstan on March 26. Tatyana Okhlopkova, a member of the Kazakhstan Central Election Commission, explained the rules that apply to candidates and their campaign staff in an interview with this newspaper.
Could you explain the general campaign rules and conditions?
Ensuring voter rights during campaign season is always taken very seriously; this is reflected both in legislative regulations and in the elections themselves. The Constitution and the Constitutional Law On Elections guarantee equality in election participation and the principle of true competition amongst citizens based on the diversity in candidate choices.
The manner in which the elections are to be prepared and executed were approved via a decree of the Central Election Commission on Feb. 26 that provides 30 days for election campaigning beginning on March 26 and ending at midnight on April 24. On Election Day and the preceding day, campaigning is prohibited.
Legislatively speaking, campaigning is defined as an activity that encourages voters to vote for or against any particular candidate.
The Constitutional Law On Elections sets the cornerstone of the country’s election campaigning policies concerning media statements, public events, such as gatherings, meetings with voters, debates and discussions, rallies, demonstrations and so on, as well as personal meetings between candidates and their agents with voters, the issuance and the distribution of print, audio-visual and other campaign materials.
I would like to emphasise that candidates and their agents should be aware that all printed campaign materials must contain information about the organisation that published the given materials, where they were printed and circulated and the people who placed their order and provided funding. In addition, all printed campaign materials must be manufactured in Kazakhstan.
What funds can candidates use to organise and conduct propaganda work?
The state guarantees equal funding to presidential candidates from the state budget for campaign purposes.
The Central Election Commission, in a March 25 decision, set the total amount that can be used for campaign activities at 7,010,000 tenge (US$38,244) that can be put towards a 15-minute statement on television, a 10-minute radio statement, the printing of two articles no longer than 0.1 of a printed sheet, rent for a venue for voter meetings, the publication of printed campaign materials and transportation costs.
Candidates also have the opportunity to form an election fund. It may consist of the candidate’s own funds. The total amount must be within 5,000 times of the minimum wage (no more than 106,820,000 tenge (US$575,226). Funds allocated to candidates nominated by national public associations may total no more than 149,548,000 tenge (US$805,316) and voluntary donations from Kazakhstan citizens and organisations can total no more than 320,460,000 million tenge (US$1,725,677). Thus, election funds can total no more than 576,828,000 million tenge (US$3,106,219).
If the candidate is self-promoted, the size of his election fund is to be no larger than 427,280,000 tenge (US$ 2,300,903).
The state also guarantees all citizens and public associations the right to an unhampered election campaign that does not require funding.
What other “taboos” relating to campaigning exist?
The Constitutional Law On Elections contains sufficient regulations defining what is prohibited.
Campaigning by providing voters with free or reduced price goods, services or securities is strictly prohibited. Lotteries, charitable doings and giving money, or the promise of such is also forbidden. Only printed materials and a variety of promotional products, such as flags, badges, cards, etc., specially produced for the election campaign, are authorised.
There is a ban on organising charity events and pre-election campaigning using images of a person without his or her written permission or the written permission of their heirs.
Employees of national level state agencies, local governments and their officials while in the performance of official duties are forbidden from campaigning or distributing any campaign materials; members of the armed forces and other military units, national security officials, law enforcement officers and judges are prohibited from campaigning as well along with election commission member and religious associations. Foreigners, stateless persons, foreign legal entities and international organisations do not have the right to carry out activities that promote or hinder the election of any candidate.
Election workers can be held liable to varying degrees for violations.
The main goal of the campaign and all participants is to provide voters with complete and accurate information about presidential candidates and their agendas and to ensure maximum openness and transparency in the election process.