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Power Outage Silences Kyrgyz Presidential Rival

Opposition candidate Almazbek Atambaev (pictured) hopes to prevent Kurmanbek Bakiev from further consolidating power.
BISHKEK -- A blackout struck the opposition stronghold of Talas in Kyrgyzstan during the planned live broadcast of the Kyrgyz language test of opposition leader and presidential candidate Almazbek Atambaev on May 26, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported.

The language test has been routine in the wake of Kyrgyzstan's independence with the breakup of the Soviet Union, and offered Atambaev an opportunity to speak directly to a national audience ahead of the July 23 presidential election.

Atambaev supporters in Talas called RFE/RL to report the electricity outage, which they alleged was deliberate by authorities.

But a representative of the regional electric company blamed the power cut on technical difficulties.

Atambaev used the 15-minute speech -- one of three official portions of the test -- to pledge that he would present an alternative to "family management" in Kyrgyzstan, a reference to the governing style of his incumbent rival, President Kurmanbek Bakiev.

Atambaev said the country's "biggest problem is not the global economic crisis, it's our own thieves who occupy our government."

He added that his goal is to "fight against these thieves."