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A Female President For Kazakhstan?

No place for a man? The Kazakh presidential palace in Astana

No place for a man? The Kazakh presidential palace in Astana

If you believe Central Asian women are reluctant to take part in politics, then think twice.

Three Kazakh women have so far applied for candidacy in the country's April 3 presidential election. A fourth female hopeful, pensioner Zaure Masina, has changed her mind and withdrawn her application.

Soon the era of exclusively male leadership will come to an end in Kazakhstan and the country will be ruled by a woman, predicts Guldana Takbaeva, one of the aspirants.

A 57-year-old former journalist from southern Zhambyl province, she says she has been unemployed for the past two years so she can take care of her elderly mother.

As a villager, she tells RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, she's quite familiar with the everyday problems that face her rural countrymen and is determined to make it a priority to resolve them if she's elected.

Takbaeva and another presidential hopeful, Maira Karamaeva, have something in common -- they both claim to be certified faith healers.

Karamaeva, 53, claims she has unique "bioenergy" that enables her to heal people, body and soul. She indeed treats patients at her own private practice.

Another Kazakh woman eyeing the presidency is Meiramkul Kozhagulova, who according to election officials hasn't divulged her occupation or place of work. Kozhagulova, however, says she is the head of a family center in her native Aktobe province.

Kozhagulova and Karamaeva have already tested the presidential waters; both fielded bids in Kazakhstan's 2005 election. But they were disqualified after failing the Kazakh language test for prospective nominees.

Election officials said this week that Kozhagulova didn't show up for her scheduled language test.

Karamaeva has recently expressed confidence she'll pass the language test this time around.

-- Farangis Najibullah