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Election Campaign: From setting fire to fire


February 19 in Kazakhstan officially began campaigning for candidates for deputies to Mazhilis and Maslikhats.

The first day of campaign turned out to be Sunday; in this connection Almaty civil activists chose it to hold in Almaty the first election rally of the current campaign in the country. At this rally, candidates independent from the authorities and political parties announced that they had created the Block of Independent Candidates for joint campaigning. The organizers of the event were well-known activists in the southern capital, Alnur Ilyashev and Murat Turymbetov, who were not nominated as deputies themselves, because the authorities had deprived them of such an opportunity in advance, having imposed a criminal record on each.

The place of the meeting was the area near the monument to Mahatma Gandhi in the city park with the same name; the meeting was coordinated with the city Akimat, so there was no large police presence and no detentions of the participants. The meeting did not gather many people – not more than a hundred, but nevertheless it was the start of the election campaign in its non-partisan and non-propresidential aspect.

Journalists covering yesterday’s rally included Vadim Boreyko, editor of the popular Hyperborey YouTube channel, with a photo and video camera operator. The next morning the main topic of the day was not their report on the Gandhi Park rally but a night-time event near the house of one of our colleagues. In the early morning of Monday 20 February Vadim Boreyko reported about an explosion and resulting fire that happened on Sunday night, incinerating two cars which belonged to the operator of the Hyperborey YouTube channel and were parked outside his house for the night. The operator was at home and heard a loud bang before he saw his cars in flames.

In connection with the event that happened on the night of February 19 to 20 I immediately remembered two similar events from the night of January 13 to 14 and the night of January 19 to 20, respectively. The first event was the burning of the car of the journalist Dinara Egeubaeva, the editor of the YouTube channel DINARON, and now a candidate for the Majilis. In this case, the police announced the arrest of the suspected perpetrators of the crime, but nothing is yet known about identifying the perpetrator. In the second case the victim of the attack was the same Vadim Boreyko about whom we wrote at the beginning of this article in connection with today’s incident with the attack on his operator. A month ago, on the same night from the 19th to the 20th, unknown perpetrators sealed up the door of his apartment with flammable absorbent cotton and painted on the door of the staircase an obscene drawing with the slogan “HYPERBORA”. No results of the police investigation into the case are known at all.

Everyone who is familiar with Bulat Okudzhava’s work knows his earliest song, dating back to 1945, which begins with the lines: “Impertinent and stubborn, / Burn, fire, burn! / To replace December / Come January…”. All last year I was putting these lines to the modern history of Kazakhstan, extracting from them an indication of the continuity between the December of 1986 and 2011 (Zheltoksan and Zhanaozen) and January of 2022 (Kantar). Now we should adjust the lines of the song approximately as follows: “February replaces January”. This is a reinterpretation of the two months that belong no longer to the old odes, but to the year 2023. I have already written about it more than once, but I would like to repeat my observations from January, overlaying the night attacks on journalists in Almaty and the general political events in Astana during the day.

The arson of Dinara Yegheubayeva’s car happened on the night after the joint session of Majilis and Senate, at which the deputies voted for canceling the law “On the first president”, and the action of intimidation by Vadim Boreyko – on the night after the signing of the second president on setting new elections to Majilis and Maslikhats for March 19. Now a third one can be added to these two pairs: the explosion and arson of Hyperborea’s cars takes place on the night after the rally of the Block of Independent candidates – the first election rally in the country, which opened the election campaign for these elections.

I should also note the doubling of the size of material damage inflicted to independent journalists by organizers of fire actions unknown to us: if on 13.01 one car was burnt down, on 19.02 two cars were blown up and burned down at once. Is there anything else that may happen in this sphere during the month left till the voting? Will the new forceful actions be obliged to coincide with the 13th and 19th days of March, so that there would be an exact rhyme with the 13th and 19th days of January, and now the 19th day of February – or will the dates of the new actions be any different? Will the organizers of the pre-election horrors and thrashings triple and quadruple the stakes after the doubling of them? Obviously, we have no answers to these questions, we can only guess.